A refreshing, intriguing and dark warning of an unchecked future.
Like television’s Black Mirror, Samata Schweblin’s latest story takes modern technology to the extreme, extrapolating where our current trajectory may take us.
Her 2020 International Booker Prize listed novel is accidentally timely given the coronavirus global pandemic and our growing needs for both physical isolation and closer connections. This currency adds impact to her dystopian tale which is set in a future where technology allows random people to connect.
Cute toys called Kentukis are taking the world by storm in the shape of cuddly panda bears, dragons, rabbits and more. The buyer chooses which of these forms their companion will take. Housed inside is a microphone and camera and, while the technology will translate the owner’s language, the toy itself can only communicate in the appropriate sounds of its animal shape.
Somewhere else in the world, a random individual is connected to the toy virtually and lives their life alongside the Kentuki owner. The owner has no idea who has entered their life. Think of the paranoia already existing with Google Home, Alexa and Siri listening into our lives, and combine that with the voyeurism and narcissism on platforms like Instagram, and you begin to understand how things may go sour. In the West Indies, a grieving boy gets to experience snow. A lonely Kentuki owner finds companionship. And somewhere else, a dweller inside a panda develops darker ideas about his owner…
There is a sense of unease that permeates Schweblin’s novel as it plays on our own unease about technology. Benefits versus risk is the key ingredient that the book questions in an imaginative way that keeps it interesting.
Translated by Megan McDowell from the original Argentinian novel, Little Eyes is a refreshing, intriguing and dark warning of an unchecked future where it may not be the technology, corporations or megalomaniacs that turns against us, but the everyman we let inside.
Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Distributed by: Bloomsbury Australia
Released: July 2020