68. Statisticity by Yaron Glazer
What first strikes me about this book is the beauty and ease of its presentation. I don't usually read e-books. This time, I received the e-book from the author for review. I never expected to say this about a digital book, but it is a work of art. It has "pages" that turn forward and back with the click of an arrow on either side. Each page contains only the amount of prose that comfortably fills the screen and not an iota more (I read on a laptop, so I can't speak for tablets or e-readers). The best part of the setup, though, integrates well with the content of the novel. The story is set in a dystopian future China and uses both futuristic and Mandarin-derived terms that would be unfamiliar to the modern reader. Although many of the terms can be deciphered from context, especially for the habitual science fiction reader, readers of Statisticity don't have to suffer through the disorientation that led me to put down novels such as William Gibson's Neuromancer. If you want the experience of orienting yourself in an unfamiliar world though, you can still have it. That's the beauty of the design. Each term can be clicked on and will illuminate its definition, and sometimes the "wiki" as well. The same terms might show different information at different points in the story. Some characters who are not otherwise introduced in the text come with a picture and "Party profile" if you click on their names. If you click on the name of a place in the story, you will be shown its location on a map--and then you can easily click to return to your spot in the story. However, you can ignore all these opportunities and read like a regular book--but you would be missing the chance to experience the world in a way similar to how the characters interact with each other. That brings me to the interesting part about this dystopian future China. Citizens of this police state are forced to live the majority of their lives online, in the Party virtual world known as Zhongguo. "Offline" is an exotic world that requires a visa. Most people spend their lives in modules, "Offlining" only to sleep, eat, and take care of basic bodily functions. Our heroes, of course, have other ideas. When I first started reading, the story reminded me most of Ernest Cline's Ready Player One, and, it occurs to me now, it also bears some resemblance to The Matrix. However, Glazer's book lacks the youthful optimism and zany geekery of Cline's book as well as the superpowered action sequences of The Matrix film. This is a more dismal look at climate change and the impact of virtual technology on society.
Gamer geeks and coding aficionados may get more out of the lingo and story, but as a mere science fiction fan, the technobabble was mostly intelligible. There were also some amusing science-y metaphors--"spreading out like radioactive isotopes moving through vascular tissue." The focus is more on concept than plot or character, but the writing is solid and the dynamic reading experience keeps it interesting. Recommended to fans of hard sci-fi and dystopia.
Received for review from the author.