BOOK REVIEW: Broadcast by Liam Brown

BOOK REVIEW: Broadcast by Liam Brown

Bantam Australia
September 2017
Paperback, $29.99
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell

Science Fiction/Contemporary Fiction

6/10

The idea behind MindCast is simple. We insert a small chip into your skull and then every thought, every feeling, every memory is streamed live, twenty-four hours a day. Trust me – within a few months you’ll be the most talked about person on the planet.

When David Callow is offered the lead role in a revolutionary new online show, he snatches at the opportunity.

He is up to his eyeballs in terms and conditions and small print, all of it written in meaningless legalese, his inbox expanding, exploding. He agrees to everything without reading it, scrawling an x in every box with the tip of his stylus.
X
X
X
Buried treasure.
Careless kisses.

Rapidly becoming a viral sensation, David is propelled to stratospheric levels of celebrity.

Giving up on searching my cupboards, I instead take a couple of seconds to visualise a hot pepperoni pizza, in as much detail as I can muster. A crisp crust. Molten mozzarella. A dark circle of grease beginning to show through the thin cardboard delivery box. 
This is something I’ve started to do a fair bit over the last few weeks, with a surprising degree of success. Knowing that companies are desperate to promote their brand, I simply imagine something I need or want – a new pair of trainers, a Chinese takeaway – and more often than not it’ll arrive at my door within an hour.

However, he soon realises the downside of sharing every secret with the world.

‘How long do you think it’ll be before MindCast goes mass market? Before it’s mandatory? Before we’re implanting chips at birth?’
On the laptop, a newborn baby appears, his head clamped in a surgical vice, a trail of wires snaking out from the back of his skull.
‘MindCast for babies? But that doesn’t make any… I mean, I don’t think people would want to watch that?’
‘Jesus! This isn’t about a fucking show!’

A prisoner to both his fame and his own thoughts, David seeks to have the chip removed, only to discover the chilling secret lurking at the heart of MindCast, and the terrifying ambition the show’s creator has for him.

My emails are completely ignored, and the only person I can reach on the phone is a flat-voiced receptionist who apologises that neither Xan nor Katya are currently available but promises to pass on my request for an urgent call back. In frustration, I ask to speak to Dr Khan, or even Paul, but I only ever get the same response. 
There’s nobody here.

 

Broadcast is at times unrealistic (though not in the ways you might think) and yet highly predictable for readers and watchers of social commentary sci-fi.

Perhaps part of this predictability comes from the difficulty connecting with the main character because he has… well, if he has a single redeeming quality, I’m struggling to bring it to mind. As such, readers are able to observe the story from an impartial point of view and see the hits well before they fall.

As a huge fan of Black Mirror, the moment this book was likened to the show it became a must read.

To be sure, there is a certain Black Mirror flavour to this story, but unfortunately any fans of the show are also bound to find this story rather unoriginal. This is not to say that the story borrows directly from any one episode –  though there are some similarities in technologies and themes to be sure – but rather that, because the show pushes so many boundaries as to leave a viewer’s mind changed, perhaps it was too lofty a reference.

Broadcast was also likened to was The Truman Show, a story that you’re bound to know the premise of, even if you’ve never seen it. Readers stepping through from the late-nineties world of The Truman Show are bound to find this quite a bit more confronting than that overly cheery social experiment, but let’s face it, that’s no longer the world we live in.

The end result of this combination is a book that would likely have been a lot more challenging had it come out five or ten years ago, but which fails to really get under the genre-aware reader’s skin in 2017.

All in all, Broadcast had potential but failed to deliver for this sci-fi loving reader, but it might do better with readers not as well-versed in the genre.

 

BOOK REVIEW: Broadcast by Liam Brown

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