I think the most amazing thing about the book is the author’s imaginative mingling of the physical world and the digital world. He’s writing about the digital as if it were a physical place (DeepArcher). There are definitely some HT’s to Neuromancer and some of the early cyberpunk fiction, but it’s modern (2001 modern… in 2013).
The other concept that underlies the story is this idea of directions and progress and choices and alternatives not taken. There is a great quote about the physical space being overtaken by advertisers and essentially ruined… and the question of what it (the Internet, capital I) would have become if that had not occurred. All in a nostalgic yet accepting way. I was very surprised how he handled the actual ‘event’. It was understated, he didn’t follow the common script at the time (and really the historical record of the event). There is a lot of heavy emotion around 9/11 and the author really handled that deftly, a little bit removed in fact. It was a different telling and it surprised me. I had some anxiety b/c I knew the book covered it – but it was subtly comforting in that he didn’t dig it all up again.
The other point is the historical perspective of programs like MKultra in light of Snowden and the NSA. The logical question is, why would you need a ‘Manchurian Candidate’ and a program like MKultra if you could surveil every bit of information from the population? The answer is you wouldn’t.
The time travel narrative is pretty weird… coupled with the idea of sightings of dead people walking around NYC. Maybe in a historical perspective (Pynchon is 76 now) he’s completing the narrative begun in the 60’s continuing through 9/11 and onward to the present intelligence apparatus. He’s touching on the ideas of loss and enduring the ‘atrocity’ (he uses that word) but approaching it from a unique perspective. He focuses on the return to normalcy – which I think is different than the media’s narrative at the time.
I’ve always resisted reading fiction about the tech world. I think primarily because I’ve been living it for 15 years. I never read Microserfs, I don’t want to watch movies about Google, never watched AK play Jobs – I’m kind ‘anti’ the fictionalization of the industry. Maybe that’s odd, but it is so (I did read SJs bio though). I guess I’m not cool with the hagiographic representations of tycoons and robber barons. That sounds bitter. Not my thing.
I think Pynchon portrays “late capitalism” and the character of Gabriel Ice as they should be portrayed. The kind of person who after shaking their hand, compels you to go and wash yours.
(such a great biological synthesis + indication of compatibility by the way… I always note the urge if it’s there when meeting someone new… but that’s just me)
There are so many compelling ideas to explore … these are just a few.
**I’ve never seen those shows btw… I should write a post about my theory of creators and consumers some time. It would be epic.