Social media, data privacy and their dangers: huge global issues in which Liam Brown’s fictional work, Broadcast, spins a lucidly inquiring, fabulously mind-bending take on.
Brown doesn’t make it easy. Nor does he signal his punches.
He’s prepared to deliberately annoy and force you to struggle with managing his seemingly confused blend of omnipotent author’s voice and first person descriptive narrative of the central character, David Callow. At times, it’s as if you’re reading stage directions removed from the purpose you believe a novel should be about, revealing the characters’ inner hearts and being; the kind of deep emotional excavation work a book does for a reader’s soul, rather than the shallow venality of a vlogger, which Callow is. Yet, isn’t that the social media experience? Instant, not past or future tense? This makes sense of Callow and the author being so first person in voice.
Callow rises from middling vlogger to the biggest thing on the planet with a sharp, hard-worn and working manager, Sarah, reasonable product placement agreements, and a seriously healthy following. He agrees to become the face of a new show with a twist, created by the current big brand tech world maestro, Xan Brinkley.
A chip is inserted into the back of his neck, linked surgically to his brain. A phone or camera is no longer needed to stream content. The chip streams Callow’s thoughts and dreams in real time to the planet. This is MindCast!
In Callow, Brown has fashioned a terrifically hip, ordinary everyman of the 21st Century seeking global self-validation with all the toys available. He’s not alone. We almost all have social media accounts, yes? The only difference being a dedication to putting his thoughts and experiences out there to the point it’s become life itself like you never imagined. Callow, as a person, always seems more eighty percent than one hundred percent of the real deal David Callow.
What happens when the wall dividing private and public is broken and both are owned by another entity? What about when all your inner being is out there as naked as the day you were born – and you’re getting sued for it?? That’s the point at which Broadcast flips into a deadly serious mode. Callow has to switch on and start taking things really seriously. This ‘reality’ is something dangerous, and Xan may, in fact, not be the eccentric, too-cool-for-school dude he fronts up as.
This phase of the novel really revs up to a ripping pitch. Brown goes straight into some serious stuff on the perceptive level of novels such as Orwell’s 1984 and Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. Yet he never loses control of offering his vision in language that is remarkably light as to the weightiness of issues being thrashed out.
Broadcast, a novel that is a warning call to the social media era, yet so brilliantly entertaining.
Reviewed by David O’Brien
Rating out of 10: 10
Distributed by: Penguin Australia
Released: September 2017
RRP: $29.99 trade paperback, $12.99 eBook