Klehr, Kevin. “Social Media Central”, NineStar Press, 2018.
Living in the Real World
Have you noticed how much of your life you live behind a screen? So much happens while we are on our smart phones, our tablets and our computers and now our watches (yes, I have one of those, too).
We are moving towards a world where actually meeting someone is a rarity. In that world, everyone connects via Social Media Central for their social interaction. Tayler, however, leaves his home each day to go to work and he does not have a personal computer. Events lead to his entering Social Media Central where he soon has quite a following. Tayler learns quickly that while new and intoxicating, this world is not all what it seems to be.
One day as Tayler is sitting on a park bench, a beautiful woman with a bunch of groupies carrying some kind of devices walks by and he is quite beside himself even though he has no idea who she is. This stuns the guy who happens to be sitting on the same bench. The woman is Madeline Q and she is so intrigued by Tayler’s ignorance that she gives him her card. Tayler’s phone is just a phone. He has no web connection and therefore no presence on Social Media Central. SMC has reduced the internet into one interface and portal.
The story is set in Astra City which is dominated by empty steel and glass buildings because most people now work from wherever and there are no longer any schools since education is online through instructional videos. People do not visit each other or share meals because they can now ‘mirror meal’ whereby they each get the same meal, connect and eat in front of their computers.
You may begin to wonder who is this Tayler and where does he fit into this story. He is an anachronism as a person who actually prefers real contact with people. However, he is mystified by Madeline and decides to go to one of her affairs. He learns that she is a fashion icon with a huge following and whatever she does or wears starts a trend. It does not take long for Tayler to become swept up in her lifestyle. But then, somebody dies and Tayler, Madeline and two others are implicated.
I must admit that the whole idea of a world run by the internet is totally depressing. I hate the idea of reading an ebook because I believe a book is meant to be held and cherished. I rarely agree to read something electronically and then only for a select few writers will I do so.
There is something way too futuristic and too didactic in a world where we know each other via icons. Nonetheless, after having a bit of a hard time getting into the story, I soon found this to be quite a gripping read. I am sad that the plot is plausible but I enjoyed the bold characters who really have no idea just how without power they are. This is a thought-provoking read even though I found it troubling. I felt that George Orwell was hovering above as I read the powerful social commentary presented here.
Until now I have known Kevin Klehr as an LGBT writer and it is nice to see that he has branched out (yes, there is bisexuality here but it is not the core of the novel) into a story that is both something of a mystery and a thriller. His writing is, as usual, pristine and engaging and while the basic idea of the internet controlling us is abhorrent to me, I did totally enjoy the read. Just the fact that I could become so emotional about what I read is the sign of a good writer.