By @SimonCocking review of Individutopia: A novel set in a neoliberal dystopia by Joss Sheldon

THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS SOCIETY Beloved friend, The year is 2084, and that famous Margaret Thatcher quote has become a reality: There really is no such thing as society. No one speaks to anyone else. No one looks at anyone else. People don’t collaborate, they only compete.

What will the future look like, will we all be screen glazed docile monkeys? Caught in an endless loop of stick anthropologically designed apps to keep us permanently online. The predictions of The Matrix will have come to pass, and as a race we will have fallen victim to the endless gratification of our own desires? This book’s subtitle is a ‘neoliberal dystopia’ and we would probably agree that the author has a lot to work with. He sets the scene well, will the protagonist caught up in an endless race to be ranked higher in a series of ratings and different charts. Humans no longer speak to each other and all their desires are digitally satisfied.

This is a rich area to explore and Sheldon makes a good bash at it in many areas. However when it comes to future predictions / wrapped up in utopian or dystopian stories, the story still has to be there to keep the reader engaged and involved. In what is a relatively short story it still felt like a long time, over 2/3rds of the book before the hero finally leaves the cocoon and ventures out, and, arguably, the story actually begins rather than it merely being a satirical description of how the future might be. Story always has to be wrapped around critique and satire. From there things move into something like ‘The Road’ or various other future-shock dissenting societies and Renee gradually takes off the distorting lenses to try and find a real community in a time of mass individualism.

It is a thought-provoking effort, but with more attention to the story too, it could have been a good read as well.


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