cover image After On

After On

Rob Reid. Del Rey, $28 (560p) ISBN 978-1-5247-9805-5

Reid’s (Year Zero) slick, hyperactive, and flawed technothriller postulates an artificial intelligence emerging from the heart of contemporary Silicon Valley. Phluttr is a hot new social networking tool that uses advances in tech security to do things other apps can’t, so everybody uses it. Mitchell, Kuba, and Danna run a start-up; when it’s purchased and absorbed by Phluttr, their software happens to bring in the ideas that make that huge web of social connections become self-aware. It’s then up to them to help the new AI survive, thrive, and not wipe out or take control of the human race. Reid’s pop-culture references are spot-on, and his pacing is fast and funny, but the narrative is saturated with racism and sexism (presumably meant to be edgy and ironic but never actually funny or incisive), and political correctness is a punchline. There are so many layers of metatextuality and patter that the overall effect is of a howling void of self-referential back-patting. The satire occasionally rises to the level of clunky, but never further. (Aug.)