The power of global corporations and the rise of the right are scrutinised in a novel that explores current anxieties with a cold and horrified eye
As the UK trembles endlessly on the long drawn-out brink of Brexit, Sam Byers imagines what might come after. His furiously smart near-future satire is set partly in the fictional everytown of Edmundsbury, and partly in the digital world, from the shallows of Twitter to the murky depths of multinational tech companies. It’s both a rollicking farce of political exhaustion and social collapse, and a subtle investigation into the slippery, ever-evolving relationship between words and deeds.
Sleepy Edmundsbury is under pressure from outside forces: global tech giant Green is quietly insinuating itself into the town’s infrastructure, while building company Downton is strong-arming the last remaining residents out of the crumbling Larchwood housing estate with an eye on redevelopment. And then a van draws up in the market square, and masked men calling themselves “the Griefers” stage a happening that appears to hold residents to digital ransom, displaying tantalising screenshots with the slogan “What don’t you want to share?” As a demonstration that “the cosy little box we’ve all fashioned to pour our ids into isn’t as secure as we thought”, they ask that one person from the town step forward to offer up their web history, or victims will be exposed at random.