Friday, March 27, 2020

Book Review: '#hashtagged' by Kimberly Hix Trant

#hashtagged by Kimberly Hix Trant
Texas author Kimberly Hix Trant makes her literary debut with this extraordinarily timely novel '#hashtagged'. Kimberly gained a degree in journalism from Texas A&M University and currently is a North Texas technology consultant. She states her first exposure to computers came when her mother, an early champion of technology-based learning, came home with a TRS-80 computer and insisted Kimberly learn to use it. Watching her granddaughter reminds Kimberly that future generations will never know the security and privacy of a life lived offline--and that everything posted online lives on. Or as she states about this book, `We provided the data through social networking sites. We divulged the very secrets of humanity with abandon. They own us now. And they are connected as one all-seeing, all-knowing entity: IT. This is the future Oliver Smith had seen and for which he had been preparing his daughter, Madeline. Maddy does not know it, but she is the key to preventing that particular future. She will follow her father's trail of secrets to find the point where the past, present, and future converge.'

Those if us in the pre-computer, pre-Internet, pre-social media obsession may be perplexed when even in a social meeting place like a popular café or eatery no one is talking, all heads are bent down (near prayer like) with faces lighted by that weird glow from an iPhone or tablet or iPad screen, ignoring those friends at the same table to catch up on the gossip and selfies that barrage the airways in an attempt to connect people. That stage is the platform for Kimberly's novel and for those obsessed with the social media communication the book will hold one degree of fascination, while for those of us luddites with no insight as to the `language' of her story will learn much about contemporary `living' and thinking. In other words, it is a book that will appeal to every one - for varying reasons.

Kimberly distills the plot for us: `#hashtagged is a chilling new science fiction novel about a daughter's journey through her father's past and into a frightening future. This future is something that Oliver Smith has seen firsthand and for which he has been preparing his daughter, Madeline. After Ollie's death, Maddy must follow a trail of secrets that leads her into the arms of her first love, Jagger, the only person that can truly help her fight against a future world governed by artificial intelligence. #hashtagged shows us in terrifying detail the dystopian world we create through every #hashtag, Twitter, and Facebook update.'

The writing style Kimberly elects to use is one of frank, open, seemingly innocence as she opens her book: `My father was a scientist by day and an obsessed computer geek by night. I imagined him some kind of a sailor, and thus, a pirate, riding the nighttime waves of bits and bytes taking a bit here, a byte there. Ollie surfed the digital world long before it was a web-enabled host for trivia and advertising. I sat perched high on a stool in the garage night after night eating a grilled cheese sandwich, my father's specialty, while doing homework on the tight red spiral notebook in my lap. This is my biggest memory of childhood: calling out math problems and answers against the rhythm of those plastic keys striking their mystic commands. The room was lit by the glow of the wall full of monitors. Ollie sat before them, a sailor, indeed, a captain, squinting back into the incandescent glow of the sea before him. Our family had always been just Ollie and me. I had no real memory of my mother, just the impression that comes from faded photographs and left-behind belongings. I was named for her, but my father never called me Madeline, just Maddy.' One would not expect this warmly sentimental style to develop into the science fiction thriller Kimberly creates - and that is a major reason this novel works so well. She seduces us, gains our trust, and then takes on an adventure far beyond expectations. She writes with the surety of a journalist, but also with the style of an important emerging literary figure. Grady Harp, July 15

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. 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.