& Review: Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Thomas Sweterlitsch

Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Thomas Sweterlitsch. Sci-Fi/Fantasy. Publisher: Berkley, July 2014

Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Thomas Sweterlitsch. Sci-Fi/Fantasy. Publisher: Berkley, July 2014

The Book Itself: Mysterious and pining, with a red-headed woman disappearing into digital dust. Eye-catching and surreal.

My Review: Pittsburgh is John Dominic Blaxton’s home even though the city has been uninhabitable ruin and ash for the past decade. The Pittsburgh Dominic lives in is the Archive, an immersive virtual reconstruction of the city’s buildings, parks, and landmarks, as well as the people who once lived there. Including Dominic’s wife and unborn child.

When he’s not reliving every recorded moment with his wife in an endless cycle of desperation and despair, Dominic investigates mysterious deaths preserved in the Archive before Pittsburgh’s destruction. His latest cold case is the apparent murder of a woman whose every appearance is deliberately being deleted from the Archive.

Obsessed with uncovering this woman’s identity and what happened to her, Dominic follows a trail from the virtual world into reality. But finding the truth buried deep within an illusion means risking his sanity and his very existence…

I’m not even really sure where to start this review. My thoughts and reflections about this book are so scattered and disconnected. Which is appropriate, because that kind of describes the writing style. Tomorrow and Tomorrow is told from the perspective of a bereaved husband who constantly immerses himself in a virtual copy of a city that was reduced to rubble by a bomb. His wife and unborn child were in the city. He was not. He also has a bit of a drug problem, and tends to obsess over other matters.

All of this leads to a scattered telling. Our John is a troubled guy. And he gets involved in even more troublesome stuff. It’s a splatter-painted telling with drugs, sex, brutal massacres left and right, and instance after instance of hope lost (you like how I used splatter painting as an adjective? Genius). And yet, the descriptions of the city as it once was, and of trying to rebuild a life in the midst of danger and horror can be great, even beautiful.

There just comes a point that too much is too much.

In this world (not exactly dystopian, as the whole world hasn’t ended, just Pittsburgh), Adware is essential. What is Adware you may ask? It’s Google glass on steroids. It is technology surgically attached to your brain and skull to enhance your eyesight as well as bombard you with advertisements for services and products as you look at them in the real world. Sliding into a driverless cab, you interact with the car, accept or decline offers for services and nearby attractions, and pay through this system. It also immerses you in the full-body virtual reality of the once proud Pittsburgh, completely recreated through security cam footage and people’s memories of their loved ones and their surroundings.

Personally, that seems like a nightmare. And Tomorrow capitalizes on this point. Our main characters is so constantly bombarded by these ads and the severe degree of sex and violence the world has fallen into, it begins to inhibit the story. Sex and/or mutilated bodies show up in every chapter as pop-ups or news stories via this Adware. The female president of the nation is never described or even named without mentioning her overtly sexual image: she wears revealing couture to public executions, she has fake breasts, she is featured heavily in porn. Whenever John has a dull moment, and is just sitting there, he describes the dead bodies found outside of nightclubs with their various limbs removed, or the porn pop-ups offered to him every second of every day. It gets maddening. Could we get through a scene without descriptions of massacres or images of women moaning?

So on the one hand, there’s that. On the other hand…that’s the point. He’s bombarded, so we’re bombarded. He can’t get through a day where he’s not confronted with the knowledge that his wife is gone, that this world is corrupt and money/sex/power/scandal hungry to the point of obsession. It serves as a warning really. Don’t let it get to this point. Don’t let your every pause be interrupted with sensation and capitalism. I just think it comes off as a little heavy handed.

Besides all that! (mini rant over?) the book is a little piecemeal. We get the story and the different players involved and what’s happening behind the scenes in drips and drabs. Who the enemy is even by the end of the story is hazy at best.

My favorite section of the story is a survivor’s perspective about the end of Pittsburgh. They were on a bus, literally departing Pittsburgh, when the bomb went off. The story that follows about how people survived or didn’t survive on the bus, and the description of feeling and desperation is heartbreaking, and more real than anything else in the novel.

The story is choppy, but there are moments of greatness in it. If you can handle over-saturated futuristic grit, with a good story at its root, you might like this one.

My Grade: C

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