Reviews | Written by Tony Cowin 25/03/2018


Alexa, what’s the UK going to look like in 7 years?

I’m sorry. I don’t have that information.

Well, Google bots may not know but Heather Child takes a good stab at answering that question in her debut novel Everything About You. It centres on Freya, a tech dropout who has been demoted to serving in a furniture store café.  Not using her psychology degree and working in a hair net rather than on the internet, she finds herself floating through life aimlessly. Flat sharing with her VR porn addicted ex and flipping greasy eggs she needs something to reboot her life.

So, when she is gifted a beta version of a virtual assistant called Smartface that is loaded with the personality of her missing half-sister Ruby, she grabs the chance with an apprehensive zeal.  When the virtual Ruby evolves with memories that have occurred since her disappearance Freya is convinced it’s evidence her sister’s life is being built on more than just algorithms. The possibility of finding her through data breadcrumbs is too tempting to resist. Freya begins investigating.

Everything About You is more than a Gone Girl for the VR generation, however. It’s a deep look at how technology is overtaking more complex threads of our lives. Everything from work to easing decision anxiety. It’s a future where you don’t even have to ask a question because Smartface knows what you need even before you do.

When virtual life feels better than reality are we set free or imprisoned? Heather Child has built a layered future to examine that question. The novel is jam pack with imaginative futurisms that feel threaded from our real world. The believability owes a lot to Child’s background in personalisation technologies I suspect.

The book is a thriller that spins on the question of whether Ruby’s existence is real or are the almost nefarious Smarti Corporation replicating her as a data gathering ghost. It’s a chase which takes Freya on adventures in both reality and the virtual world. Adventures where she finds even avatars can be physically threatening. Yet it’s also more than that. It lays a path to where we may be headed. A world where humans are just single cells in a machine organism that will outgrow us.

Some will compare Everything About You to Black Mirror. While it certainly resonates with Charlie Brooker’s sensibilities and warnings, it also reads a lot like Philip K Dick at his most paranoid.

One thing is for sure. When the book is released ask Alexa to order you a copy. But be careful she doesn’t read it before you do, she may just tell the delivery drone that we’re onto them.