This is a collection of loosely connected fragments set to a sci-fi backdrop where the Internet is gone without explanation, and the book explores a series of events under the influence of the commodity’s sudden absence. Without the pacifying stream of information characters are subjected to chaotic conditions and society is compromised through violence. The opportunity for social criticism is abundant, and while the collection plays with different genres it is satire that stands out to me with the most clarity. The notion of a social problem as a result of Internet addiction is a motif that the narrator wants to expose. Nichols brings us characters who specialize, “in enabling each other’s deficiencies” (121), and those deficiencies are often expressed through the exposure of our addictive tendencies, and the anxiety of distance. It is the shock of sudden change that results in the chaos of impulsive reaction.
One condition of modernity is nostalgia. A collective longing for the good old days makes up a significant part of mainstream thought. Everyone my age wants to relive the 90s for the rest of their lives. Yet the idea that, “America would be ready to actually live in that nostalgia” (28-29) is met with the social chaos of sudden change.
Our character focus shifts between chapters, so the cast is grown quickly. What makes the stories special are the moments where we return to earlier characters, and delve further into the complexities of this small world. It is this novel-like quality that lends itself to a proper rising action and resolution through the scope of loosely connected short stories. Between the satire and haunting resolutions we’re faced with social critique and the consequences of familial bonds. It is the expression of character and conclusion that reveals the great takeaway that’s built upon the foundation of the earlier chapters. While the emotional payoff is delivered with the conclusion I don’t intend to take anything away from the earlier chapters. We are offered cause and effect, action and then tragedy. Nichols delivers the complication of our human condition upon removing that, which has, “separated us from people,” (295).