By Nikesh Shukla
Published by The Friday Project
Reviewed by Jessica Berkery
A term, originating from cyberpunk fiction and culture, referring to the real (that is, not virtual) world, the world of flesh and blood. Somewhat tongue-in-cheek. The opposite of cyberspace.
Meatspace, Nikesh Shukla’s second novel, delves into the digital age of the here and now, exploring the way that our lives on the internet can at times be more successful than the lives we lead in real life.
Kitab Balasubramanyam is a character in crisis, living a dual life. Online, he is a confident writer with a novel published with thousands of followers reading his online, ‘cool’ banter. In real life, he is a writer-in-crisis with a novel published, suffers from writer’s block, an ex-girlfriend and his messy brother, Aziz, living in his spare bedroom.
“The first and last thing I do everyday is see what strangers are saying about me.”
Both Kitab and Aziz are internet obsessed. They must be connected at all times and be prepared to live-tweet any mundane detail that could make them look hip. Kitab’s life starts to unravel as soon as Aziz decides he must travel to America to discover his doppelganger. Kitab is left alone, with feelings of abandonment encroaching into this life. This book doesn’t paint social media in a good way in fact it shows how being tuned into the internet can amplify the loneliness of real life and the urgent need to fit in with society can make a person more dislocated from real life and from their true self.
Kitab must face up to his neglected real life, having become detached from his family, friends, his writing and his home. Kitab’s fear of achievement and the need to fit into society reminded me of Douglas Coupland’s earlier novel, Generation X. Just like Coupland, Shukla explores the way people deal and also not deal with emotions especially grief. This is done in a touching, tender way especially at the end (which I won’t reveal as I don’t want to spoil the plot for anyone).
“I flick through my social media streams at great speed, expecting an ease to overcome me.”
Yet when his doppelganger, Kitab 2, turns up, full of details about Kitab’s online life, makes him reconsider his carelessness of posting every small detail about his everyday life as it slowly starts to come back and haunt him in the shape of Kitab 2. Shukla delves into the way the internet especially social media has changed the way we conduct ourselves to the public and the way it changes the concept of relationships. There are no boundaries online and this has seeped into Kitab’s real life. The internet has blended with real life. Real life has blended with the internet. Shukla has created a novel that combines Fight Club with an overgrown character from The Inbetweeners.
This is a funny, enjoyable satire of today’s obsession with social media. At times its close to the bone and at other times its far-fetched but it will definitely make you laugh, cringe and roll your eyes.
About the reviewer
Jessica has a novel buried on her hard-drive, another one in progress and several short stories published. She reviews books at www.writerslittlehelper.blogspot.com. She lives in Bedfordshire, UK.