Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Black Box by Jennifer Egan Review


An undercover spy is on a mission to stop bad guys from doing bad stuff – this story is a recording of her mission, her Black Box. 

Sounds vague and generic? Well Jennifer Egan switched things up by writing her story on Twitter! That’s right, each line is a separate tweet making up a whole story. It’s also written in my least favourite style, the second person. This means that everything refers to you. You think. You do. You are. You know. You You. You You You. YOU! 

Our unnamed narrator lives in a future where the government seems to be recruiting civilians for dangerous undercover missions ‘cos they got no records linking an involvement with law enforcement. Which makes sooooo much sense. Oh wait, no it doesn’t (you think). 

This spy is different from Bond and Bourne and other B’s (though she is described as a “Beauty” throughout – a piece of vapid arm-candy is her cover) because she’s got nanotech gadgets implanted in her body. Mics in her ears, cameras in her eyes, buttons behind her knees - she’s like a cyborg, watch out bad guys! 

Speaking of them, what are the bad guys up to? We never find out. The whole story comes off as very abstract – no names or locations are mentioned, the villains’ aims are unstated – and the 140 characters limit per line gives it this poetic air, strangely juxtaposed with the cold manual-like instructions that compose the majority of the story. 

Black Box isn’t a bad short story. It’s pretty average and nothing that special - its standout feature is HOW it was written which says a lot - but it’s entertaining enough and skilfully constructed. 

You can be a sucker and buy a copy or you could read the story for free over at The New Yorker here: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/201...

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