The This – Adam Roberts

The This

The This, written by Adan Roberts and released in February 2022, is a science fiction novel centered on the fictional social media network The This. The This is a hands-free platform, the users opting to “install” an implant in the top of their mouths, in time making them connected to the platform which they can communicate on with their thoughts. Just a hands-free Twitter right? Well, not really.

This story is told pretty much in a nonlinear fashion, hopping a bit between the “present”, which still is the future, and the (future) future. We get the story of the beginnings of this new platform and what has happened after it has become widely adopted, and by that having created a new Hivemind, which is in war with the part of humanity that have opted stay away from it.

The story is largely being told through the eyes of two main characters, the first of them being Rich, a freelance journalist getting work through a gig-app. He’s approached by someone who wants him to do an interview with The This, and after this interview he gets more and more obsessed with the platform. But also, The This becomes more and more eager to recruit him, and so is the government, wanting to use him as part of their plan to infiltrate the platform.

In the future, we get to follow Adan, a lazy kind of good-for-nothing guy who lives on his mothers money together with his so called Phene, Elegy. She is his robotic phone/partner, who he is quite romantically in love with. This is pretty much standard in this future though, so not much weirdness about that. But, after his mother decides to join the Hivemind, he’s being forced to start earning his own living, having to leave Elegy behind and joining the army, where he after his initial training is sent out to fight the Hivemind.

The story goes back and forth between these two characters, but also weaves in some other parts that gives us a bit more background, but also a lot of philosophical pondering. It might sound that this book is about the war between humans and a new type of consciousness, but is much more than that. It’s heavily philosophical, going into subjects of belonging, evolution, the progress of time, intergalactic communication and parallel universes. I’m sure a huge chunk of the deeper meanings went over my head, but i still found it a fascinating read. I never got bored of the story or the themes in this book, and I found myself tearing through it.

There is a good framework in the book, and all the other topics are being nicely woven into this framework. It surely is a satire overall, a not very improbable one at that, but it’s also a philosophical piece that makes you really think. Roberts manages to make the characters believable and have a nice depth. It’s interesting to read a book where a big part of the theme is about belonging to something bigger, especially when we’re living in a time and society where individuality is largely the main focus. It can be a bit heavy on the exposition in some parts, especially in the later chapters, but overall this is a great read.

Read it if you want your sci-fi to have some deeper philosophical themes mixed up with satire, and I think you won’t be disappointed by this one.