I've already posted a review on twitter, of this book published by Gollancz, written by Adam Roberts, called The This, which refers to a social media site in which a brain implant (installed on the roof of the mouth) is needed in order to join. You can then 'tweet' your thoughts directly onto the platform by just thinking them. My review was written in the spirit of the book in the sense that I just poured it out of my head directly into my iPhone keyboard without really editing. It ended up being a thread of about six or so tweets, and it was re-tweeted by the author.
Having now finished the book there's nothing I would take back or majorly revise from what I said before, but a few things did happen in the final hundred pages or so, one of which is that the paradox of extraterrestrial intelligence was broached in the narrative. A contact about 10 light years away communicated with one of the 'individuals' established through the social medias on Earth, of which there were only three. These 'individuals' are in fact amalgamations of the memberships of people assimilated to the sites, so that they are now corporate structures that subsume any of those people into the collective will.
This is the kind of 'follow through' swing of the novum of this book, which is that there is a dialectic between part/whole, that Hegel wrote about, and that here is enacted in a way consonant with Hegelianism. What Roberts is saying is that if we followed through in practice with Hegel's philosophy, AND utilising the tools of social media to do so, this is what a possible end result of that process might look like. And also, this is why intelligences on other planets haven't contacted us until now. Because civilisation is essentially Hegelian, and history ends, except paradoxically once it does, then that is the prompt for those sufficiently evolved 'individuals' to contact us (and presumably others).
I would revise only slightly my judgement that this novum is a bit 'faffy'. It is only because Hegel is more faffy than Kant (only by a hair, mind you), and so two novels utilising such philosophical novums to structure their narratives and socially implicated drives, if done well, will reflect to some degree the fuzziness (another way of saying faffiness) of those philosophies. With Kant you had his twelve categories, and Roberts prequel to this novel had twelve chapters to mirror that structure. It was called The Thing Itself, and it worked quite well, in part because Roberts stuck to the spirit of Kant for clarity and took us through a kind of tribunal from the perspective of artificial intelligence, and the ethics thereof in light of Kantianism.
In this sequel, the novum is dialectics itself, and spirit, and the part/whole idea, in which the material flows from Spirit, which forms the essential core of being. Contradictions are overcome, dialectically, and with material implications but all of this eventuates in a universe of pure spirit, the absolute, or God. The religious aspect of this book resonates really well with his previous one, Purgatory Mount, and that previous book also looks in depth at war. War is a paradox and is therefore treatable dialectically (see also Cormier's book War as Paradox published by McGill-Queen's University Press), as intricately bound up in ideas of peace. One might say the first rule of war is 'DON'T', but this rule isn't followed nearly as often as one would like (because in that case there would be no war). Being a darling of the right doesn't necessarily mean Hegel was a war-monger (I have no idea if he was or not); Hegel is equally a seeming darling of the left: Marx famously used him for his own ends; the surrealists seemed to be enamoured.
Others highlights of the book: the Bardo sections were really readable incantatory and humourous meditations on all the different ways we can die. There is a nice section that includes a whole sub-strata of footnotes that are just tweets, giving you a real-time perspective on the quality and makeup of what the flow of twitter looks like (mostly garbage really, and links to advertisements). Rich is a very sympathetic character, and so is Ally, and both are caught up in scales of maneuvering well beyond their ken. The punultimate chapter uses Orwellian doublespeak in a really sophisticated way that adds some spice to the closing chapters. Overall this book really stacks up to the last five or six books Roberts has published. This reminds me that the speech capabilities in Bete were enabled by a similar kind of (roof of the mouth installed) technology to this one, and these kinds of continuities and echoes are part of the pleasure of reading this body of work.
The Real-Town Murders; and By the Pricking of Her Thumb were both great books that I'll be reading again soon; ditto for Purgatory Mount and Bete; and then we have these two excellent ones on philosophers. It's all a great part of a lineup of speculative fiction that now in the beginning of 2022 is really starting to shape up nicely.