Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Am I Hot Or Not Part II [Review: Rate Me Red]

Richie Chevat's e-book Rate Me Red is a Brave New World to rival Blind Faith's 1984. It also describes a future extrapolated from today's Internet: again we have Facebook-style sharing and liking, together with a combination of YouTube vlogging and Second Life where your real-life clothes are cheap, but you then pay thousands of pounds more for your vid avatar to be seen wearing them.

Unlike Brave New World, where social mobility is zero and caste is defined before birth, Rate Me Red and Blind Faith describe futures where your social standing depends totally on your popularity – the Oranges and Yellows of Vidnet know that a chance encounter could precipitate a life-destroying chromofall at any time.

For the most part Vidnet society is a Machine Stops lifestyle - the novel follows hero Gordy through a real-life date and sexual encounter with his girlfriend Poppy, which is such a rare, shocking occurrence that it will surely boost both their ratings. The way everyone belongs to massive transnational corporations also reminded me of Max Barry's novel Jennifer Government, reviewed here.

You face a double humiliation in this future: not only must your every failure and embarrassment be made available to everyone over the net, but even worse – no-one’s actually watching it. In Blind Faith etiquette requires that you tell everyone how much you’ve enjoyed watching them argue or have sex, but of course no-one actually does because they’re self obsessed. In Rate Me Red you can’t actually keep up with all of your Twitter-style followers – so you buy a digital avatar who can do it for you, right down to replying to your e-mails.

Rate Me Red is bursting with ideas, from the ghetto-bound Blue underclass and mythical Purple untouchables to the pathetically intellectual Rejectionists. I particularly liked the idea that you couldn't be a success until you had a hate campaign against you - luckily Gordy's best friend is happy to oblige.

Neologisms TM have defined the dystopic fiction genre since 1984 and Clockwork Orange. They’re widely used here and while this is often effective there are a few misfires such as the constant referral to Real Life TM. This would be my only Criticism TM of Chevat’s writing – and on the other hand, perhaps because Chevat is also a playwright, the dialogue is particularly funny and well written, and the novel as a whole has a great pace. You can find out more or download the e-book from the author's website.

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