Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Book Review: 'The Age of Earthquakes: A Guide to the Extreme Present' by Douglas Coupland

Review by David Wineberg

This is a difficult book to describe. You can read it in an hour or so. Most of the pages have fewer than 50 words. Many of them have definitions of new words, usually a combination of old words made into something dystopian. The book leaves you with the uncomfortable feeling that all is not right in the world. Then you realize – so what else is new?

It really means that Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock of fifty years ago has finally arrived. Things are moving so fast we can’t adjust and accommodate. Even if we tried, the world would have moved on to something else before we got anywhere. So confusion and lack of direction reign.

The words on the page are a cross between a Steven Wright one liner and a Haiku for millennials:
-It turns out computer games merely teach you how to play other computer games.
-A one way trip to Mars would be okay if it had smoking-hot wifi.
-What if there were a drug that made you feel more like yourself?

As you would expect from the co-authors, most of the references are to the internet. The memes are multiple choice dropdowns, fill-in boxes, and radio buttons. That is the normal frame of reference for people who have grown up with the internet always available. Reading The Age of Earthquakes is like living an episode of Black Mirror. It’s all very realistic, very possible, and very downbeat. It’s an emotional warning.

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of David Wineberg. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right. 

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