by Naomi Alderman
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Pub Date 07 Nov 2023 | Archive Date 31 Dec 2023
The bestselling, award-winning author of The Power delivers a dazzling tour de force where a handful of friends plot a daring heist to save the world from the tech giants whose greed threatens life as we know it.
When Martha Einkorn fled her father’s isolated compound in Oregon, she never expected to find herself working for a powerful social media mogul hell-bent on controlling everything. Now, she’s surrounded by mega-rich companies designing private weather, predictive analytics, and covert weaponry, while spouting technological prophecy. Martha may have left the cult, but if the apocalyptic warnings in her father’s fox and rabbit sermon—once a parable to her—are starting to come true, how much future is actually left?
Across the world, in a mall in Singapore, Lai Zhen, an internet-famous survivalist, flees from an assassin. She’s cornered, desperate and—worst of all—might die without ever knowing what's going on. Suddenly, a remarkable piece of software appears on her phone telling her exactly how to escape. Who made it? What is it really for? And if those behind it can save her from danger, what do they want from her, and what else do they know about the future?
Martha and Zhen’s worlds are about to collide. An explosive chain of events is set in motion. While a few billionaires assured of their own safety lead the world to destruction, Martha’s relentless drive and Zhen’s insatiable curiosity could lead to something beautiful or the cataclysmic end of civilization.
By turns thrilling, hilarious, tender, and always piercingly brilliant, The Future unfolds at a breakneck speed, highlighting how power corrupts the few who have it and what it means to stand up to them. The future is coming. The Future is here.
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This book is at once dystopian and utopian. Like the Power it suggests that power corrupts but unlike it, here good can reverse the destruction that uncaring billionaires inflicts on the world.
The sympathetic character of Zhen ties the various characters and time lines together. I throughly enjoyed reading the Future for its insights in the perils of big tech and cleverly constructed plot that is often surprising. This is sure to be one of the best of the year.
“The future calls on us one painful step at a time and the first rule of life is to survive.”
As a fan of The Power, I had high expectations and this book did not disappoint! I feel like The Power was so effective in highlighting the issue of power imbalances in gender. For me, The Future draws its strength from a web of storytelling, pulling threads of commercialization, social media, wealth inequality, climate change, over consumption, polarizing politics, etc into a tapestry that is the future. All of which is shown through characters striving to survive. How each of these characters choose to interpret survival reverberates into a philosophical parable of what survival means as individuals, as a society, as an ecosystem.
Alderman has become of my favorite contemporary authors. As a huge fan of sci-fi, this was the most realistic depiction of AI that I’ve read. I feel a lot of authors kind of run with the idea of artificial intelligence that exists solely in science fiction. The AI here is a terrifyingly accurate depiction of what’s around the corner.
In The Future, the world is about to end.
This is literally true of Alderman's book, but it's also a sentence that would make logical sense to me if someone approached me on the street and whispered it in my ear. The world is flooded and on fire and at war, and things feel apocalyptic, and so the beginning of this novel, in which 3 tech giants get on a private plane because they've been alerted (before anyone else) that the world is ending and they should evacuate to their cushy private bunkers, felt a little too real. And maybe that is our future (Bezos definitely has a bunker, right?), but the rest of The Future makes the argument that assuming the end is nigh may just be a psychological trick we're using to shortcut the unpleasantness of uncertainty. For so many of us, a known end is more comfortable than an unknown one, even if the known option is terrible. What makes Alderman's characters so compelling is their inextinguishable hope, and their willingness to use the levers they have access to to change what they can.
Alderman wrestles with big questions in this novel (my favorite being, "Will we leave the world or will the world leave us?"), and certainly it's up there with The Children's Bible for the way it made me reimagine the end times. The things I appreciate most about The Future, though, are narrative, not ideological. I love Alderman's depiction of the queer romance between a survival influencer and a former cult member turned Big Tech bigwig. I love her rendition of a survivalist site called Name the Day, where people fight in the comments section about what board a comment belongs on (strategies? Old Testament prophecy?). I love the puzzle of the novel, the way I was never quite sure what people were plotting. And if I didn't love the neatness of the ending, it's perhaps because I'm still more of a cynic than I'd like to be.
Long story short, this is a top book of 2023 for me. Thank you to Simon & Schuster and NetGalley for the ARC!