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Everyone in Silico Paperback – November 22, 2002
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This month's Book With Buzz: "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng
From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture - perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. See more
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In Jim Munroe's near-future novel Everyone in Silico, San Francisco has been destroyed by an earthquake and replaced by the virtual city of Frisco. Nearly everyone on earth wants to move to this fashionable cyberworld. This is no surprise. The physical world has become a sort of virtual reality: no one has privacy, and everyone is monitored by the corporations. Everyone is both consumer and salesperson, earning money by shilling cigarettes or software to strangers and friends. Why not abandon the flesh for the everlasting cyberspace of Frisco?
Still, not everyone seeks to leave the "meat" world. A genetic-engineering artist known as Nicky creates rat-dog splices to sell to naive tourists and resists her mother's pleas to live in Frisco. Professional adman Doug Patterson watches his city, job, and marriage start to crumble as his coworkers and neighbors move online. When she loses her 12-year-old grandson to Frisco, Eileen Ellis dons her old military bodysuit and becomes, once again, a deadly supersoldier--but this time, she serves no corporate master. And Paul, mysterious soul in the cybermachine, seeks to orchestrate a new destiny for the human race.
Everyone in Silico is the third novel by Jim Munroe, the former managing editor of radical anti-advertising magazine Adbusters. As a book, Everyone in Silico is rather wobbly. The pace is unvarying, the dialogue is sometimes slack, and the climax is diffuse. But like Steve Aylett and Paul Di Filippo, his fellow science-fiction satirists at publisher Four Walls Eight Windows, Monroe is unorthodox, off-kilter, and interesting. --Cynthia Ward
From Publishers Weekly
Canadian author Munroe's third novel (after Flyboy Action Figure Comes with Gas Mask and Angry Young Spaceman), set in Vancouver, offers a fresh and amusing take on how technology can be used or misused in a consumption-obsessed society. In 2036, a new technology called Self is available to download individual consciousnesses into a shared digital existence where anything is possible for a price. As most people abandon this polluted, intractable world, a few holdouts try to help recreate nature. Those who resist the allure also try to find out what's happening to the "meat" bodies of the multitude who've opted for Self. The narrative switches focus among a small cast of more or less wary holdouts, and Munroe exuberantly studs the action with grotesque extrapolations of politics and advertising that most people accept unthinkingly. Stolen clothing doesn't just set off an alarm, for example; it bursts into flame and kills the shoplifter. Such images prompt a chuckle but also make us wince because they're so close to what we accept. At the same time, the novel allows that Self could be a place to begin escaping familiar, strangling limitations. Munroe balances the danger and the hope waiting in our future. His characters are so stuck in their preconceptions that they have trouble seeing new choices; maybe readers can do better. Those who value deft, witty SF should be well pleased.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top customer reviews
In some ways, the novels lack polish, but they're refreshing, and interesting in that way. They're not finally crafted masterpieces... they're accessible works of joy and inspiration.
That was years ago, and if I'm going to be honest, I don't really remember much about the characters in Everyone in Silico. What stuck with me were the ideas. The virtual world that people are moving into is only one small part of it. The more insidious part is the way that everyday people have become shills for corporations.
In particular, I remember a scene where one of the main characters is in an elevator, and the person he's sharing the elevator with is trying to sell him something through casual conversation, because she'll get points or money or something if she does. What she's doing slowly dawns on the main character as she keeps steering the conversation towards whatever she's trying to sell.
I remember at the time thinking how insidious that was. But now it happens all the time... maybe not in person, but on Facebook and Twitter. DropBox offers you 5 more gigs of storage if you refer your friends on Facebook to their service. You get a chance to win an Ipod if you tweet about something.
Whenever I see a friend doing something like this, or I'm tempted to do something like that myself, I think back to Everyone in Silico. It seems so harmless to tweet or update your status to get something for free, but the more people do it, the more authentic conversation dies, and the less we can trust each other.
What pushed me over the edge was a former high school friend posting a Facebook status update today about how "smart people know they can save more money by switching to Ambit Electricity". And the links were all clearly going to give her credit/money.
So yeah, this book gets a 5 star review because its ideas were powerful enough to have a lasting impact on my life, and how I think about the world. And that kind of trumps everything.
(This review originally appeared in Heath Row's Media Diet, ...)