This is a novel best suited to two audiences: those looking for innovative horror, and people interested in visionary possibilities of new media. It would also be good for fans of first-time novelist David Cronenberg's work in film, but I suspect they'd fall into the first two categories.
(I fall into all three, being a lifelong Cronenberg fan since I first saw the mad genius of Videodrome.)
Consumed is, as one might expect from the author, a challenging and strange book. I can describe the plot like this: two journalists investigate a Parisian crime, wherein a husband killed and ate part of his wife. The (former) couple were influential philosophers, Célestine and Aristide Arosteguy, and a cute parody of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. They made waves with a theory of consumer society (hence one meaning of the title). Naomi and Nathan are lovers and colleagues, fellow gadget hounds, but they usually live apart, and follow their joint inquiry along separate, parallel lines.
What follows is a picaresque or road trip, as the two N's travel the world: Paris, Japan, Canada, Hungary, Cannes, Holland. Cronenberg teasingly refuses to give us much local color, offering instead the thin, usually tech-mediated views of our protagonists, or sketches of the people they meet.
So much for the plot's initial action. But I'd also need to tell you more about the book's style. Consumed adores its surfaces and fetishes. It lovingly describes clothing, technologies, record covers (oh yes), body parts, and interior decorating exactly as far as major characters obsess over them. Technology looms large; this is very much a novel about modern digital devices and how we intimately use them.
Consumed is also about pushing against discussing awkward or awful topics, mostly in a horrific way. Without spoilering too much, I can mention offhandedly cannibalism, murder, autocannibalism, apotemnophilia, acrotomophilia, deformed body parts, sexually transmitted diseases, cancerous body parts, and medical fetishism. Which brings us back to Cronenberg's tone. He doesn't revel in these topics, but comes to them thoughtfully, from a character's mind, almost (and sometimes literally) clinically.
Back to the plot, and now I must hide some words after the cut:
Zombies and cyberpunk have a long, intertwined history, argues xirdalium. It's a fun, useful linkage, letting us link together Frankenstein and The Last Man, viruses and corporations, dystopia and cyborgs.
I am not affiliated with the goths who hang out at the end of the boardwalk. Yes, rivetheads have made attempts to horn in on my culture. It's attractive to them. Since Evanescence went mainstream, they've been able to buy their clothes at Spencer's Gifts. But just because they read about our ways on Boing Boing doesn't mean they can rock a true neo-Victorian lifestyle. It takes a lot of time and a lot of welding.
"Bryan, why do you read science fiction?" I still get this question. Here's one answer: to keep up with the present. Check out this video about an improved feedback loop, whereby patients can watch their brain activity in real time, and respond:
I hate to fall for link-baiting, but this piece repeats some points which keep popping up elsewhere, and which distort a lot of technology development. It's called "Microsoft is Dead," and boy, did that title make me yawn from the start. Others have already taken it downpretty well.
"The third cause of Microsoft's death was broadband Internet. Anyone who cares can have fast Internet access now. And the bigger the pipe to the server, the less you need the desktop." Except when "anyone who cares" cannot. Please consider the rural-urban divide, or studies showing about one-half of American homes lacking broadband. Consider, too, how many points in everyday life lack broadband, like air travel. Or does "anyone who cares" mean the people the author can be bothered to look at (see below)? Which says something about an article claiming someone else isn't very observent or clueful.
Readers of this blog will perhaps recall the several-years-long effort my town has been supporting in order to bootstrap ourselves into broadband. I guess folks in Ripton, including published authors and technology workers, gamers and grandparents aren't "anyone who cares" - to Paul Graham.
Apple is killing Microsoft. Others have said this, too. I'll believe it when we see Apple win half of the desktop market. What is it now, 10%? It's curious how people making this argument don't cite user stats. Instead we get doomed, laughable assertions on the order of "my friends use Macs" - behold:
Thanks to OS X, Apple has come back from the dead in a way that is extremely rare in technology. Their victory is so complete that I'm now surprised when I come across a computer running Windows.
Doesn't get out much, does he? I guess I'm surprised that airplanes exist, too, since I'm sitting here in an airport terminal and can't actually see one. Whoa! What's that noise?
This last one is too easy to knock down, but I can't resist: "There can only be one big man in town, and they're clearly it." Oh yes? All technology tends towards a monopoly? That's good to know... at least when we're traveling on Paul Graham's planet.
Again, apologies for leaping onto a link-baiting grenade. But these anecdota points - it's raining broadband, Apple ate the world, and monopoly is the way- keep coming back in many venues, and need swift debunking.
PS: if Graham meant "still alive" or "not very scary" when he wrote "dead," this is why word choice matters, eh?