Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Book Thoughts: A Visit from the Goon Squad

A Visit from the Goon Squad

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fascinating read, on many levels. The storytelling itself takes another form, as you start in the first chapter with two characters, and you weave backwards and then forwards in time on events with these two characters and the other individuals they meet. In the process, you learn a great deal about them, and gain insight into the others as well. While some may be annoyed by the chapters jumping around time, as well as changing the narrating perspective, I found that it kept me more interested to see who I was listening(reading) to now, and how they were connected to everyone else. There was even one chapter that took the form of a powerpoint presentation.

What I take from the book is, what I perceive, the commentary it offers on how relationships and people connect and communicate to one another. The last chapter in particular, I think, offers a interesting, if not grim, view of how we will communicate to each other in the future, a world built upon the current world of Twitter, Facebook, smartphones, and text language. Interesting characters; creates opportunities for reflection on our interactions; diverse perspectives; a good read.

Some additional thoughts...

I mentioned this above in the Goodreads review, but what really sticks with me from this book is the vision it creates for communication among individuals in the future, and how much manipulation and distrust comes as a result (I don't want to spoil anything here with specifics, as I would recommend the book to most anyone).  But it leaves with a question concerning how we currently use social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc.)...how does it improve our relationships.  It seems to me, that if the use of such tools becomes the end in itself, so to speak, as opposed to the means to an end, that end being more fulfilling, better relationships (with whomever) or more knowledge, then the future will be somewhat bleak, and foreign.  While technology through time always creates a distinct separation between times, making today look foreign to someone from a hundred years ago, the constant has been that human interaction, human relationships have not changed so drastically.  An individual from a hundred years ago can still recognize the importance of family, of friendships, of community.

I think Egan, through this book, and particularly the last chapter, posits an important question - will the use (overuse?) of social media result in fundamentally changing those foundational relationships, thereby severely cutting of the future from the past?