Tim Maughan’s Infinite Detail feels familiar. (Spoilers ahead.) The storytelling flips back and forth between Before and After, and we close in from both directions on the cataclysm which separates the two periods. Before: corporate and governance surveillance rules the world; privacy activists face harassment at airports; people fall in love online; Black Lives Matter chants are heard on the street; hedge fund traders go to parties; google-glass-like devices are ubiquitous; artists and activists carve out a small urban island to try and build a better world. After: the shops are empty, the goods stop flowing, the supply chain freezes, production is limited to agriculture. The event, we learn, is the mysterious release of a computer virus which knocks out every Internet-connected device on the planet within a week or so. It is not used as a threat, simply released, along with an explanation put on Pastebin.
Before feels true to life, feels almost nonfiction. The mechanism by which the Afters put together the pieces of before – to understand the chasm and then maybe to reclaim and rebuild – is clever and poignant. The book is enjoyable, hums with energy, but I didn’t love it.