This literary novel is packed with so many entwining and complex stories that you need to approach it like a super-rich brownie: small bites to get through the dense deliciousness. It’s a plunge into a whirling confection of contemporary archetypes: the first and most successful record executive who’s now faded in a digital world; his two daughters and the second-generation legacy they carve out for themselves; their mom who abandons the girls for years in pursuit of her PhD in sociology, and goes to live with a jungle tribe where she gleans formulas of predictable human behavior that become the basis of an academic book she published; the billionaire, famous social media exec who takes those formulas in order to create a dystopian offering.
This product, “Own Your Unconscious,” enables you to digitize all your memories onto a cube. If you choose to share your memories with the rest of the world, then you can see everyone else’s who has shared. One of the daughters starts searching to solve a mystery of what happened to her father in the early 1970’s in the redwood forest north of San Francisco. But dystopian downsides and philosophical debate surrounds to this memory sharing device and new collective unconsciousness. Crimes get solved while every day privacy gets breached. A non-profit and “the Matrix unplugged” counterculture of “eluders” arises to resist the Cube and all it represents. What does it mean to be autonomous within shared human memory files? And like the dark underbelly of fairy tales such as Hansel and Gretel, beware of a Candy House.
The book picks up where Egan’s Good Squad left off, but you don’t need to have read it to dive in here, but it helps.
Egan’s sharp insights and astute social observations have your mind reeling as you take it all in: almost the reverse of the Cube- where all these whirling stories get jam packed into your own consciousness and change your perceptions of cultural trends afoot today. Like a novelist character in the novel who studies authenticity, you’re drawn into reflecting about the deep inauthenticity of our social media lives, the worrying merger of technology with our biological bodies, and what we sacrifice as we give up our privacy.
This book is sure to win upcoming literary awards, so don’t miss it!
Thanks to Netgalley and Simon & Schuster for an advanced reader’s copy of this book