It is a little bit disconcerting to read a book in which social media platforms play such a major role. It almost feels like they are characters themselves, keeping the humans hooked with the invisible threads of addiction, playing on their insecurities.
The story is broken down in chapters, each told from the first person perspective, with each character giving voice to their own perception on things. The virtual world is their playground – a façade where they can be and do anything they want. There’s Jeff Brennan, who assumes the identity of a famous blogger with the same name, then there’s his friend Marcus who plays an important role in the outcome of things, and Marie, a beautiful lonely girl whose romantic failures ultimately lead her to the biggest failure of all.
They belong to the new generation, that of people addicted to the instant gratification of online socializing, whose success is measured in how many Facebook friends requests they manage to gather, or how many comments they get on their profiles.
Making a rather interesting contrast is Jeff’s grandfather, an old man who spends his days caring for his invalid wife, and who eagerly awaits each Sunday visit of his grandson. He belongs to the generation of rituals and handwritten notes, of conversations at tea time, of gardens and sunshine and of enjoying the small pleasures of life. He loves his grandson, but their inability to connect was quite painful to see – they belong to different worlds, and as each tries to give the other a glimpse of their own space, they fail, making each new attempt more difficult than the last. There is however, a brief moment when they almost meet, a crucial point where there seemed to be some hope for their troubled relationship. The worlds collide but the inhabitants retreat, having failed to establish any meaningful connection. The moment is lost, and it can’t be brought back again. But the old man hasn’t lost hope. He spends his days creating something he hopes to leave his grandson, something that maybe will help mend the breach between them, or at least give the young man another perspective on life, one that is stripped of the falseness of what he has become. What he couldn’t accomplish in real-life conversation, he hopes to achieve with the help of written words.
The end was quite different from what I expected – that’s always a good thing but in this case it also made me feel sad. The web of lies that each character spins, their inability to say what they really feel make them inhabitants of an imaginary world they can’t seem to be able to leave, trapped in their own fantasies.
My favorite chapters were the ones narrated by the grandfather. He lives in a real world, a tangible one, where time is measured by the rhythmic sounds of the old clock, where routine is welcome and where the love he shows his wife is enough to occupy his days. He is content. He is happy. He is real. He is the reason I would like to re-read this book again someday.
This is the first book I’ve read in electronic format. While I still prefer the paper copy, I admit this experience was better than I expected. There was that one brief moment when my reader froze (and I with it!) but thankfully a quick restart solved the problem.
Many thanks to author Andrew Blackman and his publisher Legend Press for providing me with a copy.
*Read in March 2013