Sent To Me By Orbit Books In Exchange For An Honest Review
26.04.2018 / Orbit Books / SF-Thriller / Paperback / 352pp / 978-0356510705
Target Audience: Readers who like edgy technological thrillers that defy our understanding of what our device addiction might do to our future generations.
About Everything About You
Freya has a new virtual assistant. It knows what she likes, knows what she wants and knows whose voice she most needs to hear: her missing sister’s.
It adopts her sister’s personality, recreating her through a life lived online. But this virtual version of her sister knows things it shouldn’t be possible to know. It’s almost as if the missing girl is still out there somewhere, feeding fresh updates into the cloud. But that’s impossible. Isn’t it?
With twists and turns you’ll never see coming, Everything About You is a thrilling debut showing a chilling vision of a future that’s just around the corner. You’ll never look at your privacy settings in the same way again . . .
The world of Everything About You is closer than you think:
* Right now, the average child features in over 1,500 online photographs by the age of five
* By 2025, you will interact with connected devices nearly 5,000 times per day
* Today there are already companies who will collect your data so that your relatives can interact with your ‘digital doppelganger’ after you die.
Everything About You by Heather Child is a chaotic, immersive and thrilling novel experience. Heather Child has an interesting vision of the future of technology that I think was a refreshing approach to the subject. Technology has definitely changed our behaviour but could it really change our whole personality down to the very core? Everything About You follows Freya, a shy, down-on-her-luck young woman, who is gifted the latest iteration of the Smartface technology. This virtual assistant analyses every shred of digital information someone leaves online and gives informed help/guidance based on statistics and past behaviour. It is a prototype design that aims to improve an individual’s lifestyle choices by choosing a personality that the person idolises and appreciates. Freya’s smart device chooses the voice and personality of her missing-but-presumed-dead foster sister Ruby.
Ruby’s digital imprint has been collated, analysed, developed and extrapolated to become the new assistant for Freya’s top of the line Smart device. Ruby was the one individual in Freya’s life who could bring her out of her awkward skin. Digital Ruby knows what Freya is capable of better than she could ever know but she also knows things she shouldn’t know. Is Ruby still out there providing information? Is she hiding away in London? What is she hiding from? As Freya learns to live with the voice of her dead sister in her ear, a hope that she is out there begins to brew and Freya sets out to find her.
I thought HC’s smart assistant dynamic was superbly handled. I kept imagining what it would be like to have technology like this and who the system would choose as my own personal guardian (probably my grandfather). I get a bit funny about endless comparisons to Black Mirror and I was glad to see that Everything About You holds its own with ease. There are hints of many different influences from various science-fiction and thriller novels so it will appeal to a wide audience. My favourite element of this novel has to be the development of Freya over the course of events. Living with her dead-eyed ex in a menial job after losing such a prestigious opportunity and then beginning to free herself from the chains of that life was empowering at times. The thought of interacting with a digital replication of her rebellious adopted sister scares her at first but soon she is intoxicated by how much of a free spirit Ruby was in the past. The program gets into Freya’s head and she can’t seem to let it go.
Everything About You is a fantastic and chilling insight into the infinitely potent effect of VR and the symptoms of immersion. Our dependence on technology and how it could warp feelings such as grief in the future. How data collection can unveil us to complete strangers and how important it is to be aware of who’s information you could be sharing online. There are plenty of fascinating moments to be had in this novel, especially when it comes to virtual reality but that unfortunately leads me to my main issue with the book. Everything About You is both exactly and nowhere near what I was expecting. The first half of the book definitely met my expectations but the second half of Freya’s journey to find Ruby was very unexpected in a novel such as this. It made complete sense by the end of the novel which is why I have kept the rating for the book quite high but it is certainly disorientating at times due to nature of the setting. I have to hand it to Heather Child that she can throw a curve-ball!
HC writing is certainly fascinating and I like how her mind works. The writing is 100% immersive and HC deals with a handful of ideas and concepts I haven’t come across in these sorts of novels before. Themes like manipulation, addiction, sexual abuse, phobias, failure, hope, family and the endless possibilities of technology make this novel very potent, unsettling and vital to our perspective on the future of these devices we love so much. I highly recommend Everything About You to readers who enjoy a technologically charged thriller that explores concepts that are not too far in the future. We are changing as a species due to devices and Heather Child has provided a convincing portrayal of the possibilities, opportunities and failures we may expect to see as a result.
About Heather Child
Heather Child’s experience in digital marketing has brought her into close contact with the automation and personalisation technologies that herald the ‘big data’ age. She lives in Bristol and Everything About You is her debut novel. Find her on twitter at @Heatherika1.