I don’t quite know what to make of Naomi Alderman’s intricate book The Future! There are biblical references alongside discussion of users, algorithms and data streams. A heady mix of ideas to be sure. This book certainly begins with a bang and rockets from there to the end of the world – or is it really?: “𝘖𝑛 𝑡𝘩𝑒 𝑑𝘢𝑦 𝑡𝘩𝑒 𝑤𝘰𝑟𝘭𝑑 𝑒𝘯𝑑𝘦𝑑, 𝘓𝑒𝘯𝑘 𝑆𝘬𝑒𝘭𝑡𝘪𝑠𝘩 — 𝘊𝐸𝘖 𝘢𝑛𝘥 𝘧𝑜𝘶𝑛𝘥𝑒𝘳 𝘰𝑓 𝑡𝘩𝑒 𝐹𝘢𝑛𝘵𝑎𝘪𝑙 𝑠𝘰𝑐𝘪𝑎𝘭 𝘯𝑒𝘵𝑤𝘰𝑟𝘬 — 𝘴𝑎𝘵 𝘢𝑡 𝑑𝘢𝑤𝘯 𝘣𝑒𝘯𝑒𝘢𝑡𝘩 𝘵ℎ𝘦 𝘳𝑒𝘥𝑤𝘰𝑜𝘥𝑠 𝑖𝘯 𝘢 𝘥𝑒𝘴𝑖𝘨𝑛𝘢𝑡𝘦𝑑 𝑙𝘰𝑐𝘢𝑡𝘪𝑜𝘯 𝘰𝑓 𝑛𝘢𝑡𝘶𝑟𝘢𝑙 𝑏𝘦𝑎𝘶𝑡𝘺 𝘢𝑛𝘥 𝘢𝑡𝘵𝑒𝘮𝑝𝘵𝑒𝘥 𝘵𝑜 𝑖𝘯ℎ𝘢𝑙𝘦 𝘧𝑟𝘰𝑚 ℎ𝘪𝑠 𝑛𝘢𝑣𝘦𝑙.”
This book raises lots of interesting questions. In Alderman’s dystopic setting, three gigantic tech companies hold enormous wealth and power over people’s everyday lives. The names are fictional but they could absolutely represent Meta, X or TikTok. Several tech executives seem to have devised a highly secretive doomsday plan in the event of a disaster and they use technology to activate and implement their plans.
Even though this is science fiction, there are enough parallels to our current reality to make this much like Margaret Atwood’s speculative fiction. (Atwood is a mentor of the author.) Take for example, the fictional Fantail app, which sounds exactly like early Facebook: “𝘍𝘢𝘯𝘵𝘢𝘪𝘭 𝘱𝘳𝘦𝘴𝘦𝘯𝘵𝘦𝘥 𝘪𝘵𝘴𝘦𝘭𝘧 𝘢𝘴 𝘢 𝘮𝘦𝘦𝘵𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘱𝘭𝘢𝘤𝘦— “𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘤𝘰𝘮𝘮𝘶𝘯𝘪𝘵𝘺 𝘸𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘧𝘳𝘪𝘦𝘯𝘥𝘴 𝘮𝘦𝘦𝘵 𝘧𝘳𝘪𝘦𝘯𝘥𝘴” 𝘸𝘢𝘴 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘴𝘭𝘰𝘨𝘢𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘺 𝘥𝘪𝘴𝘤𝘢𝘳𝘥𝘦𝘥 𝘪𝘯 𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘧𝘪𝘳𝘴𝘵 𝘺𝘦𝘢𝘳.”
This is a fast-paced, thrilling novel with a lot of disparate characters that demand your attention. The book to me is also reminiscent of Tomorrow, Tomorrow and Tomorrow, which is not surprising considering that Alderman developed the popular online fitness game called Zombies, Run! Overall, the book definitely made an impression on me because I’ve been thinking about it ever since I first picked it up several days ago.
Thanks to the publisher for the review copy! All opinions are my own.
About the Book:
From the award-winning, bestselling author of The Power comes a white-knuckle tour de force and dazzling exploration of the world we have made and where we are going.
The Future—as the richest people on the planet have discovered—is where the money is.
The Future is a few billionaires leading the world to destruction while safeguarding their own survival with secret lavish bunkers.
The Future is private weather, technological prophecy and highly deniable weapons.
The Future is a handful of friends—the daughter of a cult leader, a non-binary hacker, an ousted Silicon Valley visionary, the concerned wife of a dangerous CEO, and an internet-famous survivalist—hatching a daring plan. It could be the greatest heist ever. Or the cataclysmic end of civilization.
The Future is what you see if you don’t look behind you.
The Future is the only reason to do anything, the only object of desire.
The Future is here.