The Candy House is a simply amazing novel about the intrusive nature of evolving technology and the ever increasing importance of real human interaction. The novel is a companion to Egan’s Pulitzer prize winning “A Visit From the Goon Squad,” featuring some of the same characters and using interlocking narratives to tie the characters together.
The novel begins with Beresford (Bix) Bouton, famous for having created the “social media” business of Mandala, worrying over his next creation and longing for the days when he and his friends could sit together and trade ideas. Bix’s original social media idea came from Miranda Kline’s work “Patterns of Affinity,” where Kline introduces formulas for predicting human inclinations, requiring intimate knowledge of the person in question. Kline is not a fan of Bouton. “The fact that MK (as Kline was affectionately known in his world) deplored the uses Bix and his ilk had made of her theory only sharpened his fascination with her.”
In his search for open discussion to spur new ideas, Bix attends a small meeting at the apartment of Ted Hollander following a lecture by Miranda Kline. During the conversation (Bix was disguised as Walter Wad, a graduate student in electrical engineering) one of the group members mentions that she is working on externalizing an animal’s consciousness by uploading the animal’s perceptions using brain sensors. Soon thereafter arrives “The Collective Consciousness,” where individuals can share their externalized memories to the collective, by saving their memories (Own Your Unconscious), ultimately through a Mandala Consciousness Cube. Of course this technology creates an entire industry, including counters who are trying to create and quantify information, and eluders, who are trying, at a minimum, to evade the technology. “Never trust a candy house!”
Meanwhile, the novel focuses on a wide variety of interconnected characters, all of whom are differently impacted by technology and each other, because “things are more connected than they seem.” In a particularly harrowing segment of the novel Lulu becomes a “Citizen Agent,” where she uses her body to lure powerful men and obtain information for the government, albeit in an unofficial and unpaid capacity. As part of this role, Lulu has a wide variety of technology embedded in her brain, her eyes, her ears and elsewhere. There is a running commentary going through her head about her role and the steps she should be taking. The embedded technology is a camera, a recorder, a voice, an observer. This part of the novel is told in a unique style and highlights the potential intrusiveness of technology in our lives. And of course, this technology creates an underground industry of technology detection and removal. “A gain is a loss when it comes to technology.”
There is so much going on in this brilliant novel and so many different characters, all of whom are ingeniously interconnected and impacted by each other. The novel is complex and I cannot possibly include in this review everything, so you will have lots of surprises when you read “The Candy House.” But ultimately, the novel is a warning about the dangerous lure of technology and the importance of maintaining real living relationships. “…knowing everything is too much like knowing nothing; without a story, it’s all just information.” This novel is a wow! You can reserve it at the Cuyahoga County Public Library by clicking here.