It’s interesting writing a review for a blog about a book that in its opening chapters includes the comment:
“It made me sad when I caught myself pretending that everybody out there in cyberspace cared about what I thought, when really nobody gives a sh*t. And when I multiplied that sad feeling by all the millions of people in their lonely little rooms, furiously writing and posting to their lonely little pages that nobody has time to read because they’re all so busy writing and posting, it kind of broke my heart.”
Nao, A Tale for the Time Being.
And perhaps that’s the reason this particular review has taken so long to write? More likely is that in recent weeks Elldrew have found themselves wrapped up in 3 novels, all of which coincidentally are a blighting condemnation of the virtual world and the extent to which the internet is rapidly dominating our lives.
The first by Ruth Ozeki. “A Tale for the Time Being” is the somewhat tranquil and beautiful tale of a woman living on a remote island in Canada who discovers a Hello Kitty lunchbox, washed up on the beach near her home, containing the diary of a young Japanese girl (Nao). As Ruth and Nao’s lives overlap and intersect through the chapters, Ozeki raises thoughtful questions about modern life and our obsession with technology from the very different perspectives of the thirty something Ruth, the adolescent Nao, and Nao’s elderly Grandmother – a Zen Buddhist monk. Over the course of the book, Ozeki questions the value we put on technology and its ability to both save and sentence us, with social media being both the trigger for some of its most tragic narratives, but also the saviour for other events. A Tale for the Time Being is compelling and a page turner, but in a Zen-like peaceful way, which is precisely the opposite of “CyberStorm” by Matthew Mather.
Whereas A Tale for the Time Being challenges our technological crutches, CyberStorm actually takes them away from us – for when a cyber attack coincides with a monstrous blizzard and a bird-flu epidemic, the citizens of Manhattan are left alone and isolated from the outside world without heat, power, running water and the other modern conveniences we take for granted. Fast paced, harrowing and occasional gruesome CyberStorm makes one realise how dependent we really are on the internet and technology itself.
The third book in this review is “The Circle” by Dave Eggers. Dave takes the concepts introduced by both Ruth Ozeki and Matthew Mather, and rolls us forward to a not too distant future where technology developments have spiralled to create a concerning and slightly sinister world. The Circle, in this book, is a technology company that links users’ personal emails, social media and finances with their universal operating system, resulting in one online identity, and a new age of transparency (think Facebook meets Google meets Microsoft). The Circle’s objective is to remove all privacy with the tag that “Secrets are lies. Sharing is Caring. Privacy is Theft.” Their goal is to record everything anyone does throughout their life, under the concept that if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to be afraid of, and you would not do anything that you might want to hide. Ergo an end to crime, but at the cost of The Circle controlling all information on all people, all the time. Combining that concept with the events in A Tale for the Time Being and the story of CyberStorm is truly a nightmare scenario!
Taken to very different extremes but each of these books, at their heart, aims to judge our obsession with the digital world, and the power it has over each of our lives. In addition, each book made us want to put down the phone/tablet/kindle/laptop* and go out and experience life. So that, most likely, is why it has taken so long to write this review. It is also the reason we have covered 3 books in 3 paragraphs – if you’re interested go and read them, go and make your own judgement on their messages and your own opinion of their quality (but don’t stop reading Planet Elldrew as that would make us sad!).
With our new found escaping technology philosophy in mind; Planet Elldrew will soon be taking a short break whilst we go and spend some time living in some Palaeolithic cave dwellings in Italy. Don’t be deceived into thinking that this is a little out of character for Elldrew, or that these books must really have changed us, as the caves have been fitted with Philippe Starck bathrooms, underfloor heating and room service. A review will of course follow…
*delete as appropriate.