Book Review: Individutopia – Joss Sheldon
Individutopia is enjoyable to read, whether you read it at face value or consider the political/dystopian elements of the plot. Now, I’m not much of a politician, so don’t expect too much rambling from me on that side of the fence. I do think some of the ideas, although extreme, are interesting though. I’ll discuss that in more detail later.
*** I was kindly provided with a copy of Individutopia by the author in exchange for a review. All the opinions stated are my own***
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS SOCIETY
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.
I hate to admit it, but this has had tragic consequences. Unable to satisfy their social urges, the population has fallen into a pit of depression and anxiety. Suicide has become the norm.
It all sounds rather morbid, does it not? But please don’t despair, there is hope, and it comes in the form of our hero: Renee Ann Blanca. Wishing to fill the society-shaped hole in her life, our Renee does the unthinkable: She goes in search of human company! It’s a radical act and an enormous challenge. But that, I suppose, is why her tale’s worth recounting. It’s as gripping as it is touching, and I think you’re going to love it…
Your trusty narrator,
Our narrator is a consistent 3rd person, following the life of Renee Ann Blanca quite intimately. Born into a world with scarcely any human contact, she is raised by a robot until she is old enough to fend for herself. She lives in a pod she cannot even stand in and surrounds herself with virtual avatars to make up for the lack of human company. Renee is stuck in a monotonous, desperate lifestyle of competing against others… until she breaks free.
Individutopia is a nice length – not so short that you don’t have time to get into the narrative but equally it isn’t repetitive, or slow. The light, conversational tone makes the topic less formal and therefore more approachable to the potential reader. In an informal fashion, the novel portrays the differences in the two parallels – society and individualism. I find the tone of the book to help in achieving this without being rigid, forced, or dull.
The time period the narrative takes place in is some years into our future. The social (or lack of) environment is completely alien and to an extent, a degree of world building is required to set the scene. Joss achieves this well, by introducing the reader to various aspects of the “alternative world” (for want of a phrase) gradually and consistently. Clearly, a lot of time and effort has gone into developing this novel. It pays off.
There are a few elements of Invidutopia’s narrative that are a little closer to home than we may like to think. Everything is a competition. Renee is constantly ranked against others. The mindset Renee grows up with is to work, constantly. Those that do not are shamed for it… practically spat upon, if they could see each other to do it, that is.
Are we pitted against each other? Are we pressured to be the best or look the best now, never mind in this dystopian world? Absolutely! Magazines, television and social media have proven to be huge catalysts to this ideology. Social media has also proven a nasty culprit for isolation – isn’t that ironic.
And here is another thought, ladies, and gents. Be honest, how many of you opt to put your headphones and listen to music privately in your downtime?
I do. I’m guilty. Once upon a time, our forebears couldn’t get out of that awkward chat on public transport by putting headphones in, or spend their lunch hour avoiding as many people as possible. Are we already setting ourselves up for an individualistic world in the future? I hope that nothing as extreme as that in Individutopia comes to pass. It’s an interesting question though.