A futuristic thriller

Tomorrow and tomorrowThomas Sweterlitsch’s ‘Tomorrow and Tomorrow’ is set in the not-to-distant future, when technology has advanced. In the place of smartphones, people have software installed directly into their heads which is connected to the internet and connected to retinal display screens. People’s social media profiles are displayed automatically as they walk past, advertisements are videos that stream directly into your hear when you glance their way, instead of business cards people can just push their details straight into your address book and news streams offer constant real time updates in the corner of your vision.

Another new feature of this world is a virtual archive of the city of Pittsburgh, which has been completely destroyed by a dirty bomb that obliterated the city’s entire population. The archive is made up of video footage, taken from personal streams, social media sites as well as traffic, surveillance and security cameras. People are able to visit the archive, going to any time, any place and anyone and reliving the past through augmented reality software.

Dominic was one of Pittsburgh’s survivors, out of the city when the deadly bomb struck, but lost his wife and unborn child. He works in the archive, tracking down people and reliving their last hours to help settle insurance claims. He also spends a huge amount of his time living in the past – reliving the same memories of his wife, following her final moments and hearing her speak to him again and again.

His preoccupation with a certain insurance case – the death of a young woman in suspicious circumstances – and his own dependence on drugs to make the past feel more real, sees him lose his job and land in rehab. Here, he’s recruited into the services of a prominent businessman looking to locate his daughter in the Archives. But everything is not what it seems, and as Dominic is drawn deeper into the case, he uncovers a web of lies and a dangerous enemy who threatens to destroy him completely.

I found some of the technological aspects of this a little hard to get my head around, but it was fascinating to see what an imagined digital future would look like. Society is developing at a rapid pace, and there are new innovations all the time. The possibilities explored here are somewhat scary, but not all that unrealistic! We may not be able to imagine having screens implanted in our eyes and a chip in our heads that connect us directly to the internet with only a thought, we do have things like Google Glass, which can read texts and take pictures from eye movement commands, and I recently heard they’re working on a feature that will recognise someone’s face and identify them just by looking at them. I also loved the idea of translation apps, which offer real-time subtitles and remove language barriers.

For me, this aspect of the book took over from the rest of the story in a way. But buried under this brand new world that the author has created was a great thriller, and the anonymity and possibilities of the internet helped to move the plot forward and add to the tension.

Dominic was a really interesting character. When we meet him, he’s pretty much a complete mess – destroyed by his grief and held back by his inability to move on. He’s selfish, addicted to drugs and people take advantage of him. Over the course of the book, he hits complete rock bottom, and the only way is up. He does grow and change throughout the novel, but he’s still deeply flawed, making him more believable as a character.

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