As If

Broken Pencil - - Book Reviews -

Al­ban Goulden, 140 pgs, Anvil Press, anvil­press.com, 18.00$

Al­ban Goulden pro­vides a se­ries of short sto­ries set in Van­cou­ver and the prairies. The sto­ries cen­tre on the sub­tle, cru­cial ways that these set­tings in­ter­act with the peo­ple who pop­u­late them. There’s a strong fo­cus on tech­nol­ogy and how it af­fects users that Goulden ap­proaches in most of the sto­ries.

For in­stance, ‘Like’ If You Get It is, per­haps about so­cial me­dia and the way that peo­ple build iden­tity with it. These sto­ries aren’t with­out their prob­lems, as many of these read like some­one who’s try­ing to make tech to be this uni­lat­er­ally big, evil thing rather than tar­get­ing the few sites that have mo­nop­o­lized peo­ple’s psy­che. The so­cial commentary on tech and so­cial me­dia gets ex­haust­ing, es­pe­cially when it keeps hap­pen­ing. Af­ter a few of the sto­ries I was com­pelled with the need to shake Goulden and scream, “I get it! You don’t like tech­nol­ogy, that doesn’t mean we need this many sto­ries about why!!”

There’s also a few mo­ments that left me un­com­fort­able, like when Goulden de­scribes a Black char­ac­ter to be “black as African night” in Lie to Me or I’ll Panic, which was un­nec­es­sary. A build up of lit­tle things like this added up, re­mind­ing me of my dad telling me how he hates so­ci­ety, made it really hard to find these short sto­ries con­vinc­ing or ex­cit­ing. Over­all, Goulden had some in­ter­est­ing ideas but the ex­e­cu­tion wasn’t new and ended up sound­ing very re­cy­cled. (Sid­ney Dr­may)

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