Infinite Detail

Infinite Detail[Read] ➬ Infinite Detail Author Tim Maughan – Tbjewellers.co.uk BEFORE In Bristol s center lies the Croft, a digital no man s land cut off from the surveillance, Big Data dependence, and corporate sponsored, globally hegemonic aspirations that have overrun the res BEFORE In Bristol s center lies the Croft, a digital no man s land cut off from the surveillance, Big Data dependence, and corporate sponsored, globally hegemonic aspirations that have overrun the rest of the world Ten years in, it s become a center of creative counterculture But it s fraying at the edges, radicalizing from inside How will it fare when its chief architect, Rushdi Mannan, takes off to meet his boyfriend in New York City now the apotheosis of the new techno utopian global metropolis AFTER An act of anonymous cyberterrorism has permanently switched off the Internet Global trade, travel, and communication have collapsed The luxuries that characterized modern life are scarce In the Croft, Mary who has visions of people presumed dead is sought out by grieving families seeking connections to lost ones But does Mary have a gift or is she just hustling to stay alive Like Grids, who runs the Croft s black market like personal turf Or like Tyrone, who hoards music culled from cassettes, the only medium to survive the crash and tattered sneakers like treasure.

Tim Maughan is an author and journalist using both fiction and non fiction to explore issues around cities, class, culture, technology, and the future His work regularly appears on the BBC, New Scientist, and Vice Motherboard His debut novel INFINITE DETAIL will be published by FSG in He also collaborates with artists and filmmakers, and has had work shown at the VA, Columbia School of Architecture, the Vienna Biennale, and on Channel He currently lives in Canada.

Infinite Detail ePUB ´ Paperback
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  • Paperback
  • 384 pages
  • Infinite Detail
  • Tim Maughan
  • English
  • 22 February 2017
  • 0374175411

10 thoughts on “Infinite Detail

  1. says:

    This is the kind of book we might pick up again in ten years time only to be devastated by how many of Maughan s predictions of techno terrorism have come true Intertwining two alternating timelines before and after a total internet shutdown that has plunged the world into chaos , this author thinks through how our growing dependency on network technology and digitalization gives rise to new forms of power battles and warfare The story centers on the Croft , a counterculture enclave in Br This is the kind of book we might pick up again in ten years time only to be devastated by how many of Maughan s predictions of techno terrorism have come true Intertwining two alternating timelines before and after a total internet shutdown that has plunged the world into chaos , this author thinks through how our growing dependency on network technology and digitalization gives rise to new forms of power battles and warfare The story centers on the Croft , a counterculture enclave in Bristol that activists have managed to cut off from big data surveillance by the government and corporations Enduring pressure from the outside and radicalizing from the inside, the Croft is struggling to find a masterplan for its future until a group of radical hackers shuts down the internet and global production, supply chains, communication, energy, travel, and security systems collapse Now the oppressive structures of global surveillance are dead what now Maughan orchestrates a whole cast of edgy characters that roam his dystopian world and slowly unfolds what actually happened the day the internet died They believe in the archaic power of music, they can re play the past and navigate the online world with their spex which are like an advanced version of google glasses at least as long as they have network connection and they realize what s the crux of every revolution You need a plan regarding what you will do once you won And is it really a victory if people starve and die It s hard to describe the text s style, which is of course a plus because it means it s unusual I wouldn t say it s steampunk as some reviewers claim , because the Victorian aspect is utterly missing rather, Maughan shows a heightened version of now, determined by information overload, advertisements and global consumer culture Privacy is almost abolished and instead, everything is openly dsiplayed in infinite detail This book is a very smart thought experiment that negotiates current tendencies and highlights how global surveillance can become dangerous for everybody, including those gathering the information I hope some literary judges will be bold enough to include this edgy book in their prize lists, because this is a discussion to be had

  2. says:

    I readthan half of this, looked up, thought, I really don t care what happens And put it down 2019 is the year of me feeling okay with ditching books I don t care about.

  3. says:

    Wow One of the best SF books I ve read this year, torn screaming and bleeding from the zeitgeist A post apocalyptic yarn about TheEndofCivilisation when the Internet goes tits up that refuses to pander to any genre expectations Brutal, bleak, angry, savage, violent, a bit in your face with its fierce polemic But urgent and so, so now And it has a tragic gay love story as well, goddammit Tim Maughan proves why SF is the only genre to parse the muddied waters of our insane world as it Wow One of the best SF books I ve read this year, torn screaming and bleeding from the zeitgeist A post apocalyptic yarn about TheEndofCivilisation when the Internet goes tits up that refuses to pander to any genre expectations Brutal, bleak, angry, savage, violent, a bit in your face with its fierce polemic But urgent and so, so now And it has a tragic gay love story as well, goddammit Tim Maughan proves why SF is the only genre to parse the muddied waters of our insane world as it teeters on the brink of technological transcendence versus annihilation A must read for any halfway serious SF fan

  4. says:

    Imagine there was no internet.What would happen if we were cut off from our updates, our likes, our calorie tracking apps How would we cope when our online calendars disappeared, when our entire history of communications with friends and family turned to electronic mist, deleted in an instant along with our email accounts Now, the crotchety old timers among us will no doubt harrumph and orate at length about how such a disconnect could help us reconnect with what s important the family time, Imagine there was no internet.What would happen if we were cut off from our updates, our likes, our calorie tracking apps How would we cope when our online calendars disappeared, when our entire history of communications with friends and family turned to electronic mist, deleted in an instant along with our email accounts Now, the crotchety old timers among us will no doubt harrumph and orate at length about how such a disconnect could help us reconnect with what s important the family time, face to face catch ups and drinking from the hose of their idyllic pasts but what they may not have considered is that the internet these days is a whole lotthan likes and twitter pile ons.It runs everything Logistics, transport, communications, power networks, weapon systems It tracks everything It connects everything In a sense, it is everything.In Tim Maughan s Infinite Detail, the internet switch has been flicked to off This is an SF novel situated in two time periods a post internet world, set ten years after the modems fall silent, and the buildup to the great computer crash a decade earlier Global transport and logistics have completely fallen apart Communications systems have near universally died The global financial system has ceased to exist Ships stop sailing, ports stop loading, bills stop getting paid Social order has broken down, and been brutally reestablished by a hodge podge of government militias and local gang lords The people of the UK have long run out of the consumer goods they were used to, making things like plastic pens and Nike shoes commodities of rare value Even socks are in short supply, with rag wrapped feet becoming common since the floodgates of Chinese manufacturing crashed shut.In this fascinating milieu we follow numerous characters in and around The Croft, a suburb of Bristol that once rebelled against the ubiquitous surveillance and networking of everything that was occurring in cities around the globe.Rushdi Mannan, software engineer, founding Croft member and anarchist tech pioneer on numerous government watchlists, is visiting his boyfriend in New York when the first signs of the coming digital plague begin to show themselves In a New York City where everything you do is tracked, filmed, RFID d and gamified into apps on your smartglasses, drones begin to fall from the sky, something killing every digital component inside them stone dead.A decade later, in the now un networked world, Rushdi is struggling to get back to New York, to find the boyfriend that society s collapse has separated him from Meanwhile Anika, an old friend of Rushdi s, and an early mover and shaker in the Croft community, is heading back to Bristol from the countryside, where government militias are forcibly conscripting people to toil on the land and keep the cities fed Anika is a wanted rebel, a merciless slayer of government militiamen seeking an edge in her quixotic guerrilla war.When she returns to The Croft Anika encounters Mary a girl who can somehow relive the deaths of those who died in the end of internet riots, and Tyrone, a young man who dreams of creating new music that reflects the world around him Each of them has a role to play in helping heal the broken world they live in.It s all very well done, and quite convincing Maughan really made me look closely at my reliance on the internet.I order my clothes from online retailers I pay my bills online Book tickets Manage my finances with a bank that has no physical branches Hell, right now I m writing this for a website, for a community of readers linked across the world by the internet that exists only due to modern networking tech.One serious virus, a shutdown of even a few days to a week, and mine and millions of other lives would be thrown into chaos It s almost enough to turn you into a crazy prepper, hoarding tinned food and guns while muttering about the coming digital apocalypse Infinite Detail is an engaging, pacey novel full of interesting characters that had me planning my Armageddon strategy with my friends weeks after I finished it It s well worth your time.Four blinking modem lights out of five

  5. says:

    This is one of those novels that delve deep into the lives of a richly imagined near future that takes us on a trip to a dystopia that explores THE END OF THE INTERNET.Honestly, I m reminded quite a bit of William Gibson s style It s a slow and careful build up of situations and world building that gives us a no man s land of internet outcasts, people who don t want to be spied on or tabulated for all kinds of data mining, the path that micro society takes after ten years, and the world of a p This is one of those novels that delve deep into the lives of a richly imagined near future that takes us on a trip to a dystopia that explores THE END OF THE INTERNET.Honestly, I m reminded quite a bit of William Gibson s style It s a slow and careful build up of situations and world building that gives us a no man s land of internet outcasts, people who don t want to be spied on or tabulated for all kinds of data mining, the path that micro society takes after ten years, and the world of a post internet breakdown after that.We get all the arguments and commentaries on our current lifestyles We get the arguments for and against the business side, the surveillance state, and the desire to finally be free of it all We spendtime with the last group and sympathize with them.But honestly This is a pretty pure dystopia that focuses the light not on single issues but spreading it all about among the deeply drawn characters I can t express how much I was impressed by the quality of the details Indeed, the title says it all.However I did not precisely fall in love with the basic story It was okay, but the commentary was its master, spreading itself throughout all the cracks in the novel That s not a bad thing It s an impressive thing I just didn t enjoy it as much as I feel I should have.And really despite our utter reliance on the internet today, would we really go that bonkers without it

  6. says:

    This is a near future triller post apoc SF novel, which theGuardian chose as the best SF novel of 2019 The story is split in two parallel plotlines, titled Before and After, with the latter taking about 3 4th of the book Before is about our increased reliance on internet, including the Internet of things your smart fridge ordering groceries and the corresponding increase in surveillance, both by government and private companies This part is well written for the author is a journalist who fo This is a near future triller post apoc SF novel, which theGuardian chose as the best SF novel of 2019 The story is split in two parallel plotlines, titled Before and After, with the latter taking about 3 4th of the book Before is about our increased reliance on internet, including the Internet of things your smart fridge ordering groceries and the corresponding increase in surveillance, both by government and private companies This part is well written for the author is a journalist who follows the tech developments It has nice pieces e.g about losers of increased reliability on smart cities a minor character is a canner in NY, i.e he collects used cans and bottles for recycling When a smart credit system is introduced that gives credit for recycling only to the buyer of a can, he is out of job despite there are still cans to utilize But evenimportant the system follows you, the buyer, knowing where and when you got thirsty and where and when you drop your trash While the book is great in giving the reader an idea about how her his privacy is violated constantly right now, it was said quite a few times in non fic Unlike Little Brother he doesn t suggests ways to evade surveillance.After is a decade after the internet is down why and how is uncovered about the middle of the novel The life is harsh, for our utilities, our phones, a sizable fraction of what we buy has internet as its essential part The global trade is down and stuff like Nike shoes becomes nigh impossible get The post apoc future is quite usual survival of the fittest with marginal groups with guns bossing everyone around Also there is an important aspect the sub cultures of electronic music and graffiti I hate the former I prefer love from jazz to rockabilly and see the latteroften then not as a form of vandalism and not an artistic expression yes, there is a good stuff like Banksy, but for each there are hundred of gang names and the like.Overall, the novel was good in delivering the message that you re unprotected from big business using your data as their wish, but it is not now enough for me to justify high ratings

  7. says:

    SkyNet is real, and it wants to sell you shoes made by child slaves.Every decade s science fiction is taking common themes and anxieties of its decade, and transfers them slightly into the future 60s SF had a nuclear war, 70s SF had ecological collapse, 80s SF had mega conglomerates ruling the planet, 90s SF had I m not sure , but Infinite Detail clearly is about the anxieties Facebook, Google and the ubiquitous Internet have caused, the loss of privacy,importantly, the loss of private SkyNet is real, and it wants to sell you shoes made by child slaves.Every decade s science fiction is taking common themes and anxieties of its decade, and transfers them slightly into the future 60s SF had a nuclear war, 70s SF had ecological collapse, 80s SF had mega conglomerates ruling the planet, 90s SF had I m not sure , but Infinite Detail clearly is about the anxieties Facebook, Google and the ubiquitous Internet have caused, the loss of privacy,importantly, the loss of private space.There are two intertwined stories featuring mostly the same characters one is Before, set in the close future, where glasses like devices called Spex have taken over as smart phone replacements Facebook, Google, etc are all still there, and have only becomepowerful Cars are all self driving, and people are evenconstantly hooked into the network We re not imagining things And nobody planned this, no cabal of evil old white men in a smoky room Nobody is in control, and believing that someone might be is where we all start to fail This is just the political reality, it is just what happened It s what we all let happen It s the endgame of capitalism.The story in the Before follows a few Internet and privacy activists think EFF in the UK and the US and describes their alternative zone in Bristol, where they jam the worldwide net and have their own local version, an area where artists flourish and an alternative lifestyle is possible by the way, similar zones were erected during the Arab Spring the governments shut down the internet to stop people organising, so local digital networks were built.The story in the Before slowly progresses towards a quasi apocalypse, the great breakdown of the Internet due to some kind of virus Maughan never uses the word virus because it would be ridiculous, but most people would understand that The breakdown causes a kind of apocalypse, a collapse of all supply chains, of all communications, of all transport, there s chaos, warlords rise up, the remains of the UK army start to enslave people to farm food, and so on The second part of the story, the After, is set some time after this collapse, but featuring mostly the same characters who are trying to figure out what actually happened, and trying to bring order back into the chaos, to organise The main character is hugely into UK drum n bass, tries to find samples, tries to generate something new but doesn t have the technical means to do so while other early activists are trying to hide from the army, and trying to find their friends.It feels like the book is heavily influenced by Mark Fischer A lot of the characters discussions on capitalism and the system they fight feels like it comes from Fischer s Capitalist Realism Is There No Alternative The After part feels like Fischer s hauntology come to life, British jungle music as a nostalgia for a future that never happened, which perfectly describes the nostalgia the characters in the After have as described in Fischer s Ghosts of My Life Writings on Depression, Hauntology and Lost Futures Since there s a lot about electronic music here, allusions to Hakim Bey s TAZ The Temporary Autonomous Zone are not missing, either I would love to know what Fischer thinks of Maughan s book, but he s dead, how dare heIf there s one thing to criticize, then this there are so many ideas and concepts here that the story itself seems to suffer, a lot of the book is exploring the world , not growing the characters Rush is the only one who seems to develop, and that s only because the other characters learn the truth about the time of his disappearance as the story progresses, not because the character itself develops Like Stanislaw Lem, Maughan seems to beinterested in the societal repercussions of his scenarios than repercussions on a personal, psychological level Anyway, this is where cyberpunk and SF will develop into from anxiety about the loss of physical self determination think biomods in 80s cyberpunk to anxiety about the loss of psychological self determination think fake news.P.S After Helen DeWitt s Some Trick Thirteen Stories contained the first ever R code I found in a book, Infinite Detail contained the first ever pastebin I found in a bookP.P.S As part of my career I ve had interactions with rich people who work in fields I personally loathe, and this book echoes my feelings perfectly this quote comes from a chance encounter between one of the privacy activists and some kind of stock broker Brad seems nice enough weirdly na ve, even but Rush can t shake the realization that he represents everything he hates All the greed and the ignorance, all the willingness to hand over control to the machines, to take away any sense of human self determination and to put it in the arms of the network And all just to keep a few people rich, to squander technology s potential for real change in order to make a quick, lazy buck.All good art comes from anger Edit 1 Something I realised only later one of the main points in Fisher s Capitalist Realism is how alternatives to capitalism have become unimaginable In the 70s, people fought against capitalism and for communism then communism collapsed and now there s no real alternative This is picked up in Infinite Detail in a short discussion the activists brought the system down, but then they didn t know what to put into its place, and everything floundered.Edit 2 As part of the promo for this book, Maughan put together a playlist of the soundtrack of this book lots of electronic music, lots of UK rave, very much 90s jungle, you can listen to it here

  8. says:

    This book came in the mail today and I read the whole thing this afternoon, in about 3 hours, stopping only to make lunch Suffice to say I found it riveting.This is a clever work of dystopian near future sci fi, imagining a world where the Internet is evenubiquitous, and evencommodified, than it is now Or at least, that s how it is in the before scenes of the book, set in 2021 the after scenes depict an Internet free wasteland, where global capitalism has ground to a halt beca This book came in the mail today and I read the whole thing this afternoon, in about 3 hours, stopping only to make lunch Suffice to say I found it riveting.This is a clever work of dystopian near future sci fi, imagining a world where the Internet is evenubiquitous, and evencommodified, than it is now Or at least, that s how it is in the before scenes of the book, set in 2021 the after scenes depict an Internet free wasteland, where global capitalism has ground to a halt because the technology that keeps goods circulating around the world produced in factories, ferried over the ocean by container ships, and finally distributed at retail outlets has collapsed.It s not a pretty picture, to say the least The people who were responsible for the global Internet shutdown are never introduced as characters we can only surmise their motives through other characters interpretations and through the manifesto they posted, revealed to the reader in epistolary form A charitable interpretation would be that they were trying to make things right again Trying to help society break free of its gilded chains Trying to help people take off their Internet connected AR spectacles in order to see the dystopia that society had already become.The politics of the book aren t exactly subtle, but neither are they Manichaean The pre collapse world wasn t perfect, especially for those on the margins like Frank, a Brooklyn resident whose only source of income comes from recycling cans he s scavenged, at least until a software update meant to eliminate cash renders his skills worthless But things still sort of worked, and if the benefits of technological advance were not shared equally, at least technological advance was still happening.The point of the collapse is to go back to the beginning, before the Internet turned out to be the accelerant that would allow capitalism to spread faster than anyone could stop it More than a reboot a factory reset Back to square one, at least when it comes to technology.It s unclear whether the architects of the collapse predicted what would happen, or if they would have changed their minds had they known just how much violence and waste would result After all, resetting the Internet isn t the same as resetting the socioeconomic system that directed its use The post collapse world is characterised by material scarcity, where the remaining have no choice but to desperately salvage what they can from the wreckage Without the invisible backdrop of global trade, most of the advancements that modern society depends on have gone out the window trees are cut down as firewood children are forced to do manual labour medicine is basically nonexistent All this is underpinned by the menacing control of the state, mediated through the guns and uniforms of the newly expanded military.The genius of Infinite Detail lies in its ambivalence as much as it criticises the shortcomings of the system as it is now, it also recognises that there is no clean break from it We can t simply press a button to undo the bad and bring forth the good all at once Destruction is, at best, a small part of any emancipatory vision those who destroy must also have a plan for what comes after As one of the characters says near the end of the book Don t be scared of power That s the other way we fucked up before, we were always scared of power, of taking the lead We just thought everything would sort itself out somehow It won t It s not enough to just take power away from those in charge If we don t use it ourselves, they just take it back.Overall a gripping read involving cool technology mesh networks , a thoughtful political critique, and a plausible plot Would recommend to anyone who s a fan of near future sci fi authors like Cory Doctorow or Neal Stephenson

  9. says:

    Originally posted here s rare for me to be as excited about a new release as I am about Tim Maughan s excellent debut novel, Infinite Detail I don t recall exactly who put me on to Maughan s work someone on Twitter, surely, as that s where I ve gotten most of my book news and recommendations for close to a decade now but I read Paintwork in 2016 and felt like I d finally found the kind of science fiction I d been looking for, and which the genre seeme Originally posted here s rare for me to be as excited about a new release as I am about Tim Maughan s excellent debut novel, Infinite Detail I don t recall exactly who put me on to Maughan s work someone on Twitter, surely, as that s where I ve gotten most of my book news and recommendations for close to a decade now but I read Paintwork in 2016 and felt like I d finally found the kind of science fiction I d been looking for, and which the genre seemed determined not to give me.For those who haven t encountered Maughan s fiction before I d probably say that it combines William Gibson s remarkable ability to see right to the heart of now with the politics and analysis of someone like Adam Greenfield and the weird narrative prototyping of design fiction, although that doesn t seem quite right Jay Owens might call it kitchen sink dystopia, which applies to much of his short fiction, but Infinite Detail doesn t really fit there We could try some comp titles I could tell you that I recommend Infinite Detail if you liked Warren Ellis Normal, Madeline Ashby s Company Town, or Cory Doctorow s Walkaway, although none of those quite hit the mark either Infinite Detail isn t trapped by genre the way Ashby s book is, forced to change the stakes and throw away hard won character development in the face of convention Maughan also hasthan just a surface level understanding of how class actually functions, the lack of which cripples Doctorow s writing you ll be getting the real thing from Maughan, a world where the lower classes aren t just start up brogrammers who can t find work Warren Ellis Normal might be the comparison that works best, though while the two writers are about on par with their prose chops, Maughan seems to care less about the clockwork machinery of his stories andabout the people Or maybe it s closer to a stripped down version of what Nick Harkaway was doing in Gnomon That comparison has problems, too Tim might yell at me if I bring up Charlie Brooker There honestly aren t all that many touchstones This a good thing.Infinite Detail is about network effects, about tracing the impacts that enormous systems systems that are human made but beyond the scale of any individual human s understanding or control have on individuals and communities And it s about what happens when somebody says enough and burns those systems down The novel is split into chapters that jump back and forth between Before and After, referring to the event that brought down the Internet and dropped the entire world into the kind of proper dystopia that many in the global south already live in.Initially I found myselfinterested in the Before chapters, with their insightful, if occasionally blunt, dissection of the tradeoffs we make when we ask for convenience from the network and the unintended consequences of those tradeoffs that we are usually willfully oblivious to It was a bit of a thrill to follow Rush through those early chapters as he tried to make a modern life for himself but still resist surveillance capitalism using tools and skills that have limited value or at least limited immediate value outside that context One of my favourite bits from these chapters is actually available to read online.As the novel progressed I found myselfanddrawn to the After chapters, however, and not just because it became increasingly obvious what the event was that the Before chapters were leading up to It s been clear for some time now that capitalism isn t sustainable and that something needs to change What isn t clear what can t be clear is what s going to happen next, and how we re going to get there I have books on the subject, some I ve read and some still in the stack, and I have friends who are even writing books about alternate structures that might offer a hopeful transition Mostly I m skeptical there are reasons power and privilege aren t surrendered without a fight, and the various flavours of anarchism and libertarianism I ve seen offered up as de centralized, non state alternatives strike me as just different mutations of the same species of magical thinking There are mysteries in the After chapters who is Anika What s up with Mary s ghosts What happened to Rush But it s ultimately Maughan s anticipation of my kind of skepticism that drives that part of Infinite Detail, and his answer is real and raw Grids speech about self determination later in the book should be required reading for anyone who thinks or writes about these issues People are going to die There will be power vacuums and violence, famine and disease People will be crippled by memory and by the loss of memory after decades of externalizing it But there will also be music, and art, and hope, people taking responsibility and charting new paths.It s fascinating to me that one of the most hopeful moments in the entire novel, which occurs near the end of the extended epilogue, has its origins in an act of love, but that it, too, is compromised I won t get into too much detail surely discussing events in the epilogue counts as spoiling but I will say that the hope created by that act of love winds up not only enabling violence, but what is created also seems to require violence to keep it from falling apart or being overwhelmed In Walkaway, Doctorow suggests there might be room for a bloodless revolution Maughan knows that isn t possible It s oddly satisfying, in a way, that it s so goddamn messy and compromised.That being said, don t come to Infinite Detail expecting a thrill ride full of gunfights or hacker battles or whatever else It s not that It s a slow burn, and the plot doesn t hinge upon or resolve via violence Maughan s writing doesn t need those things to be interesting, and I d honestly have been disappointed if that was the kind of novel he d produced The strength of his work has always been in his ability to weld the science fictional to the everyday, and through that process reveal what is both exhilarating and terrifying about now and about us Infinite Detail has that in spades and fully lives up to both my expectations and the positive press it s been receiving Maughan has written a bold and unsettling first novel that is nothing short of magnificent I only just finished my first read through this morning, and this post has only scratched the surface of what s interesting about this book I expect I ll be thinking about and returning to Infinite Detail for quite some time

  10. says:

    Infinite Detail is a novel about technological culture and dystopia, but those two topics aren t paired in quite the way readers might expect.It takes place along two timelines, something very close to our present Before and a time about fifteen years hence After During the former we follow characters involved in a technological separatist community carved out of the British city of Bristol during the latter, we follow people in the same area after an apocalyptic event The central tra Infinite Detail is a novel about technological culture and dystopia, but those two topics aren t paired in quite the way readers might expect.It takes place along two timelines, something very close to our present Before and a time about fifteen years hence After During the former we follow characters involved in a technological separatist community carved out of the British city of Bristol during the latter, we follow people in the same area after an apocalyptic event The central trauma of the novel is that the internet is suddenly destroyed, plunging civilization into collapse Infinite Detail tacks back and forth between these two periods, taking us up to the event, then tracing its impact.Both of these are described in a naturalist style Most of the British characters are poor or working class, and the life After is horrendous The class divides between Mary, who can see the dead, and her allies, versus some of her clients, are stark and quite British Race and racism also structure both epochs Maughan eschews lyricism, except when trying to evoke music, which becomes a major aspect of the story, or the novel s framing romance Humanity has suffered an extraordinary, cataclysmic die off, followed by a fall back to late medieval living standards Many practical details make this world vivid, like the Croft s hard won business in growing spices, largely driven by child labor.Some readers may recognize the life after internet dystopia through other stories Post EMP fiction has become a subgenre now, with titles like William R Forstchen s One Second After or the tv series Jericho S M Stirling s Dies the Fire posits a sudden fall of technology I can t remember if we learn the cause Infinite Detail offers a particular take on this, showing only the destruction of the internet through a kind of cascading, internet of things based denial of service attack This doesn t only take down computer games and cat videos, but guts all of civilization, from self driving cars to utilities.Yet I m not sure where the novel ends up It s clear from the start that modern technology is problematic for the text, and also that a sudden return to feudalism is even worse I m still wondering about where this takes us To explain, I have to raise spoiler shields It s not a suspense novel with twists and turns, but still view spoiler We begin with a strong sense of technological criticism Rush is our present day guide, a cyberactivist whose arguments are quite convincing in a 2019 where we increasingly dread Google, Facebook, and smartphones His solution, a grass roots, non global network sounds intriguing Then the world collapses, and Rush s plan seems useless until the very end Most of the book, in fact, digs into the catastrophe On balance the novel feels like a slam at those who wish to unplug for being foolish at best, and deadly dangerous at worst.Other plotlines leave me unsettled One character returns to Bristol to revisit her role in the collapse, then leaves to pursue a bloody, desperate civil war in Wales Is this a tragic or heroic outcome We don t see enough of that conflict to determine Mary s visions of the dead are revealed to be technological artifacts This development does not destroy her, but seems to leave her in a positive state Is this a progressive parable of mysticism debunked by the products of reason, or a sad tale of folklore quashed by tech In America a Movement appears, systematically and violently wiping out internet age data, deeming it oppression and slavery 357 Is this just another working out of the apocalypse, or the sign of a positive polity in that situation Rush ends the novel ready to find his lost love, and also to rebuild the Croft s hyperlocal mesh network This feels triumphant, a positive result after so much horror Perhaps that s where Maughan wants us to end up, using digital technology, but only at the local, grass roots level I m not sure So much of the post apocalypse is isolated and terribly lonely one theme everyone s looking for someone Is this a call for a Schumacher like small is beautiful world, or for the hyper local holons in Daniel Suarez FreedomTM 2010 This feels unsettled to me, perhaps because the determination is supposed to be left up to the reader hide spoiler Infinite Detail feels like it s in dialogue with Cory Doctorow s Walkaway 2017 which we read in our book club last year the author was then a fine guest on the Future Trends Forum Doctorow also posited a utopian space, based on a radically different take on technology He also described a social divide between these two worlds, one which became increasingly violent Maughan offers a different twist, having the mainstream world utterly wrecked, and the utopian world unable to help Instead, the Croft is a gangster s domain, powered by child labor and kept in check by public hangings It s based on a different sense of technological activism, giving us an edge case of destruction, rather than Walkaway s positive, constructive hackers.A few last notes I m impressed by the AR MR spex that people use in Before our near future to access the digital world One of the most convincing versions of that I ve seen.One passage stood out to me, one I can t shake, and I m not sure I agree with it T heir community wasn t obvious It wasn t the people that mattered, she told him, but the spaces in between The hidden spaces, the communal secrecy, the unwatched places The spaces that belonged to them 192 Overall, one of theinteresting and thought provoking works of modern sf Recommended

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