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148 pages, Paperback
First published November 29, 2016
"All communication becomes dangerous" (56)Normal is a fun novella with a terrific premise. Every so often futurists go insane when they look too deeply into the future, a condition Ellis dubs "abyss gaze" (15). A facility called Normal (!) treats them, and that's the setting. Into Normal enters our freshly mad protagonist, who quickly stumbles into a locked room mystery.
The speaker was a man from the north of England, by his accent, with a face like a mallet and skin like a map of Yorkshire scratched out in gin-broken veins... But a grin split if like a spade through clay. (18)Several major issues hue Normal. The book is very concerned with digital surveillance, flagged early on: "all communication since Windhoek seemed fraught with danger" (10) . It's a dark meditation on where social media, robotics, and mobile are headed. There's a subplot involving the sociology of futurism, as Ellis posits a divide between those working for art and nonprofits versus those wedded to finance and security agencies.
That's the future, Adam fuckling whateveryournameis. City-states rammed with aging people huddling up against hospitals and looking up in terror for the big storm that will come and go and leave them floating facedown in thirteen feet of shit. And I can't do anything about it. (61)Personally, I haven't seen the professional tension between non-profit and security futurists, but there is certainly a difference.