Translated by Emma Rault

This Dutch novella (the first of Bervoets’ novels to be translated into English) was a late substitution to my 20 books of summer list, and is review no 14. I quite like a tech-orientated dystopian novel (though I have zero interest in tech itself and would quite happily never replace a phone or computer if they didn’t insist on breaking).

The book itself is almost laughably slim, considering it’s currently selling at £12.99 in hardback, but it’d had so much heat in the press that I duly handed over my hard-earned cash to a large online book store (the one that rhymes with Bamazon).

Kayleigh is desperate for money, and lands a job with a team of content moderators for an Instagram-style social media product. It was interesting to reflect on what life must be like for people whose entire working day is spent sifting through and evaluating disturbing online content to figure out whether a line has been crossed and, if it has, which particular line that is (in the book, the moderators do this with the help of a permanently out of date manual).

A video of people kissing in bed is allowed as long as we don’t see any genitalia or female nipples; male nipples are allowed at all times. A hand-drawn penis in a vagina is allowed; digital drawings of vulvas are not allowed … Death threats against a paedophile are allowed; death threats against a politician are not; a video of a religious zealot blowing themselves up in a daycare centre should be removed, on the grounds that it’s terrorist propaganda, not because it depicts violence or child abuse.”

Kayleigh finds herself in a same sex relationship with a colleague, but their relationship rapidly comes under strain, as their working life starts to have a psychological impact. This book had a fabulous premise, but I don’t think it used this potential to maximum effect, and the narrative could be disjointed and the dialogue unconvincing. However, I loved the great, twisty ending.

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  1. You’ve reminded me that as I’ve nearly finished my current Netgalley read (92%), I still have a copy of this TBR and maybe I could read this one next. I’m a bit spoilt for choice, but it would be good to line the next book up so I don’t end up spending hours dithering not reading – and if it’s short then I can get to a next choice sooner too. I’m quite interested in reading something that explores the dilemmas of online moderation, as a social media user who gets quite unreasonably wound up occasionally and is very glad that Elon Musk seems to have backed out of buying Twitter.

    Liked by 1 person

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