Patrick Flanery just released a new novel titled I Am No One which focuses on the Truman Show question of whether or not our lives are being observed by some grand overseer. We all know at least one person who is paranoid by government surveillance, you can spot them by the unnecessarily bright piece of tape over their laptop’s web cam.
The main thesis of Flanery’s book however, is that government surveillance may have a psychological effect on the citizenry that we were not expecting. Without making the conversation political, he points out the expansive nature of the state and how it has effected the way people behave in their day to day lives.
Flanery states that privacy no longer exists in this “new regime of data collection [that] does not see innocence first but assumes guilt by algorithmic association.” This fictional story is about a man who moves to New York and begins to struggle with a deep feeling of loneliness. That feeling ends when he notices that he is being watched, and followed, on a daily basis. Surveillance itself ends up giving the protagonist a sense of guilt, as if he has committed a some serious crime that he is unaware of.
Reviews of the book describes Flanery’s tone as changing dramatically as the story goes on. He captures the mental delusions that go with the feeling of being watched. The tone becomes choppy, the reader loses trust in the narrator, and a sense of chaos develops.
A full on identity crises ensues as the character, Doctor O’Keefe, begins to question everything in his life. Alongside the gripping nature of this psychological thriller is a scathing critique the use of state sponsored technology to keep tabs on its citizens.
One critisism of Flanery is that he spends too much time on the real world issue of surveillance and less time on the fictional story. Depending on what interests you more this might not be an issue. Regardless, this highly decorated book has just been released and anybody interested in these questions should definitely pick up this book.
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