Notes from the Internet Apocalypse: Amusing and thoughtful

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fantasy and science fiction book reviewsNotes from the Internet Apocalypse by Wayne GladstoneNotes from the Internet Apocalypse by Wayne Gladstone

Humorist Wayne Gladstone takes on the American obsession with the internet in Notes from the Internet Apocalypse, an amusing but thoughtful look at what might happen to our culture if the world wide web went down for good.

Gladstone himself is the protagonist of his story. Since both his job and his free time activities depend on the internet, he has no idea what to do now that it’s gone. So he begins keeping a journal about how the world is handling the crisis. Accompanied by a guy he’d previously met online and an Australian girl who earns her living selling online access to her in-shower webcam, Gladstone sets out on the streets of New York City to try to find out what happened to the internet. Is it a government conspiracy? Right-wingers? Muslim terrorists?

Many of the people Gladstone meets are trying to find low-tech ways to replace what they loved about the internet. Girls in bars try to present themselves as they do in their Facebook profiles (posing in ways that emphasize their best features), Craigslist users tack notices on community bulletin boards, Ask Jeeves sets up shop in Central Park, and people try to get cats to entertain them.

Most prevalent, though, seems to be the need for pornography and sexual titillation. All over the city, new places pop up to cater to the cravings of porn addicts. At one point, Gladstone loses his Australian friend and, assuming she’ll be working at one of these places, he drunkenly masturbates his way through several of them. This part of the story was too raunchy for me, but I must admire the fact that Gladstone obeys the “show don’t tell” rule of storytelling. (And it does make you realize that this is something you’re glad people usually do in the privacy of their own homes.)

So far it all sounds like a funny bit of social satire, but if that were all there was to Notes from the Internet Apocalypse, it’d be rather shallow. Fortunately there’s something else going on. Early in the story we learn that Gladstone’s marriage has failed and he’s unhappy about this. As the story progresses, we gradually pick up a few clues about what happened and we see that though he doesn’t seem conscious of it, more than anything Gladstone is trying to deal with his loss. During this process he forces us to consider our relationship with the internet. What are we using it for and how is it affecting us? Is it a place to get work done? Meet new people? Change our self-image? Feel close to other people? Avoid being alone? Escape from our real-life commitments and relationships? These are questions for all of us and I found myself thinking about this after I’d finished the book.

Notes from the Internet Apocalypse is the first book in a trilogy. At the end of this first book, Gladstone has had an uncomfortable epiphany. I’m curious about what happens next. I’m also hoping we might meet a few characters who aren’t completely pathetic humans because, so far, there aren’t any in this story which, besides the raunchiness, is my main criticism. (It’s probably not a good idea to criticize something created by a man who makes his living by mercilessly mocking anyone who annoys him.)

I listened to the audio version of Notes from the Internet Apocalypse which was narrated by Paul Michael Garcia and produced by Blackstone Audio. Garcia’s voice and conversational style are perfect for this book. It’s 5 ½ hours long. You can listen to a sample at the Amazon page and you can read the first chapter here.

Published March 4, 2014. When the Internet suddenly stops working, society reels from the loss of flowing data and streaming entertainment. Addicts wander the streets talking to themselves in 140 characters or forcing cats to perform tricks for their amusement, while the truly desperate pin their requests for casual encounters on public bulletin boards. The economy tumbles and the government passes the draconian NET Recovery Act. For Gladstone, the Net’s disappearance comes particularly hard, following the loss of his wife, leaving his flask of Jamesons and grandfather’s fedora as the only comforts in his Brooklyn apartment. But there are rumors that someone in New York is still online. Someone set apart from this new world where Facebook flirters “poke” each other in real life and members of Anonymous trade memes at secret parties. Where a former librarian can sell information as a human search engine and the perverted fulfill their secret fetishes at the blossoming Rule 34 club. With the help of his friends—a blogger and a webcam girl, both now out of work—Gladstone sets off to find the Internet. But is he the right man to save humanity from this Apocalypse? For those of you wondering if you have WiFi right now, Wayne Gladstone’s Notes from the Internet Apocalypse examines the question “What is life without the Web?”

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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