With a cast of brutally immoral deviants, and acts of senseless and sexualized violence, the novel is by design no easy read. Upsetting and bleak, the novel focuses on the worst of humanity: pedophiles, stalkers, murderers. It offers readers nobody to champion—even the sympathetic characters take a turn for the awful. Still, the story is suspenseful and fast-paced, with a multi-perspective narration that chops the oft-grotesque material into bite sized pieces. And readers with the stomach for it may find something horrifyingly compelling about watching the characters descend into darkness. From a school shooting in the first chapter, the tone never lets up; Low is upfront about the book’s nature.
There are so many names, places, and plotlines that it can be difficult to keep track of who’s who, and in taking on the depravity of the worst sectors of the internet, such as incel culture, Low runs into the tricky dilemma of how to parody something that is itself already over the top. And sometimes the novel simply goes off the rails: the late addition of a pyramid scheme, an unbelievable deus ex machina, and a touch of science fiction. But for the most part, this is a well-crafted, morally ambiguous, utterly depressing satire, with plenty to say about relationships, loneliness, violence, and misogyny–from the perspective of some truly revolting people.
Takeaway: This grim, violent satire of online hookup culture demands a strong stomach.
Great for fans of: Nick McDonell’s Twelve, Virginie Despentes’s Vernon Subutex 1.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: B