There are a few things that remain the same every time I am subjected to an episode of Black Mirror, the hit TV show blending science fiction and horror to appeal to our deep rooted anxieties about modern society. The first being that I must be feeling pretty head-strong to agree to watch an episode in the first place. You don’t want to be in a fragile state with only your pillow to hide behind. Second, each time the episode is over and the deed is done and we can all finally go back to a less terrifying existence, I scan the room for my friends in order to discuss the unhinging potentialities the episodes present to us.
Our growing dependance on technology makes many a scenario from Black Mirror seem like plausible future realities, such as robots of now-deceased-lovers prolonging the grieving process, crazy dog robots coming to kill humanity, and social media ratings quite literally taking over your life. So if you are into dystopian futures such as those mentioned above then you will love these 5 books we’ve selected for your Black Mirror lovin’ brains.
1. Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart
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Picture a near future dystopian New York where life is dominated by media and retail, and books have been rendered down to “printed, bound media artifacts”. This novel chronicles a blossoming love story from its awkward beginnings in an ungovernable America on the edge of fiscal collapse. Death is stalking protagonist Lenny Abramov, who works for an outfit called post-Human Services that attempts to provide immortality for its super-rich clientele.
Book lover and old soul Lenny navigates himself somewhat despondently through the tank-ridden streets of New York as he falls for twenty-four year old Eunice Park, a recent graduate with a major in Images and a minor in Assertiveness.
While Eunice tries to change Lenny’s archaic way of life, he in turn triumphs by showing her that there is still value in being a real human being, no matter how many shortcuts there are at the touch of a button. Read this one if you loved “San Junipero” or “Hang The DJ“.
2. Nunquam by Lawrence Durell
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This one will appeal to fans of Black Mirror’s “Be Right Back,” for it chronicles a similar situation of grief whereby Felix Charlock, the novel’s narrator, returns to work after he is discharged from an Alpine mental institution. His task in the second part of this two-part series is to create a lifelike android in the exact image of his late move star lover. This novel puts forth powerful allegories and observations about the difference between man and machine and offers a biting commentary on modern science and the Frankenstein trope in literature. As for the episode of the hit TV show, as Martha becomes increasingly frustrated with her replica boyfriend Al, as he is unable to embody the finer details of the late Ash’s personality, a scene of emotional torture unfolds only to render her choice of having artificial intelligence enter her desolate home life become supremely regretful, and more testing on her heart than her lover’s death in the first place.
3. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
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Ishiguro’s 2005 novel is certainly a dystopian companion to Black Mirror, for it is a heart-wrenching and character-driven story with elements of science fiction that function as the story’s backbone. Kathy, Tommy and Ruth grow up together in a British boarding school, moving to “the cottages” afterwards. One thing is certain throughout – something very sinister is on the horizon. Absent of family or friends, the three struggle heavily with the fact that they were brought into the world solely to become organ donors. Life and love can only really be half-experienced, for their fates were set in stone the day they were born – as clones. This harrowing life of passivity creates the same sensation in the reader as one experiences while watching the original Netflix show, Black Mirror.
4. A Collapse of Horses by Brian Evenson
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Master of literary horror Brian Evenson unsettles us with both the everyday and the extraordinary: the terror of living with the knowledge of all we cannot know. In this elegantly tense short story collection, Evenson writes 17 tales filled to the brim with hyper-violence and grotesquerie, with a lot still left to the readers imagination. Evenson relies on inner monologue, fast paced action, and unfiltered narrative prowess to ensure each story has a lasting impact and covers a multiplicity of themes.
5. Moxyland by Lauren Beukes
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If the “Nosedive” episode of Black Mirror tickled your social media luvin’ fancy then Moxyland, South African author Lauren Beukes fantastic debut novel, will also tickle said fancy. “Nosedive” presented us with a reality that seems to be very very near in our futures: everyone is obsessed with their 5 star rating on social media, one wrong move and you could lose a decimal point and potentially ruin your entire life. Moxyland presents a similar existence in which corporations benefit from and rule peoples undying obsessions with their social media, and if you go against the grain of what these corporations are cashing in on you face the ultimate punishment: disconnection.
Featured Image via Nerdist.