When I picked up “Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits” at my local Barnes & Nobel, I never figured I would be writing a review of it for privacy professionals. That is, I would never have imagined a story where the phrase “stench machine” appears hundreds of times would have such a timely examination of our dwindling privacy rights. Nevertheless, as I began David Wong’s hilarious, bizarre third novel, I found myself engaged in a dark storyline about superhumans, organized crime, and the future of privacy.
“Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits” revolves around 22-year-old Zoey Ashe, who discovers she is the daughter of a recently deceased crime boss and soon finds herself heading to the big city of Tabula Ra$a (not a typo) after being chased by a man who can bite through steel with an enhanced jaw.
Zoey finds herself squaring off against a sea of superpowered men. These aren't people who simply know how to fly or have super speed. Think someone with a mechanical jaw or the ability to generate electricity out of their hands. Needless to say, Zoey has her hands full as she attempts to unravel the mystery of her father’s death and the story behind the “super-people.”
The novel takes places several years in the future when a new social media network has become a dominant force in our daily lives. Nearly everyone in the future is connected to the Blink network, a series of livestreams where everyone has a camera recording all of their actions throughout the day. Cameras are body-mounted everywhere, on people's eyeglasses and jackets. The concept of privacy is essentially gone.
Very quickly, Zoey finds the Blink network to be among her worst enemies. As more and more super-people attempt to track her down, the countless amount of Blink cameras make hiding impossible.
Wong’s book takes this world of voyeurism and obsession with social media and takes it to its most disturbing conclusion.
Zoey is chased by the leader of the superhumans, Molech, and his gang of super-people who have the ability to bite through human limbs or electrocute someone to death with their bare hands.
Molech and his gang are among the most popular Blink streams in this futuristic setting, as millions of viewers watch in hopes of seeing horrific acts of violence committed in the most gruesome of ways.
Having never read any of Wong’s books previously, I found myself enjoying the absolutely off-the-wall sense of humor he incorporates from beginning to end. For example, Zoey’s cat, whose primary trait is his peculiar odor, is aptly named Stench Machine.
What I know about characteristically was his sense of humor (he rose to fame via Cracked.com), I was genuinely surprised by his ability to deftly balance his juvenile sensibilities with shocking twists, likable characters and a tense conclusion.
It was also fascinating to see the implications of the Blink network continue to weave its way throughout the story. The world Wong creates is a picture into what our world would look like if all of our concerns about personal privacy and social media were amped up to 11 and thrown into a blender. It certainly paints a dark picture of our obsession to not only know everything about everyone but also how it ties into the dark belly of the internet where misery and violence are not only sought out but also celebrated and turned into the mainstream.
The book is a great way to take a hard look at an unsettling world where privacy rights have all but gone to hell. Be warned, however, the “Futuristic Violence” part of the title is apt, as there are many instances of carnage told in rather explicit detail. Just something to consider if that isn’t your cup of tea.
What I’m saying is, this book is worth the read.
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