Review | Meatspace
“Meatspace [mass noun] informal -
the physical world, as opposed to cyberspace or a virtual environment”
I don’t read books much. If a book was that good then surely someone would tweet its contents over a series of months right? Books don't even have social share buttons. It was to my surprise then, that I ended up tweeting author Nikesh Shukla to find out where in central Bristol I could buy his latest creation, Meatspace.
Meatspace is a story of our obsession with interaction and the weird little online personas we create for ourselves. The irony at that time was completely lost on me as I favourited his reply out of polite acknowledgement.
Meatspace is the tale of struggling writer Kitab Balasubramanyam, recently single, living off inheritance money and filling his day thinking up witty tumblrs and tweets.
I bloody love Twitter I thought. I bet there's some funny in-jokes for us ‘au fait’ Twitter users. Probably about how no-one has ever clicked on the 'discover ' tab. I bet this book has all the LOLZ. On that note, I skipped over to Waterstones to take what is longer than appropriate for an adult to find something in an alphabetised ordering system.
Meatspace revolves around the on, and offline life of Kitab, who has applies for roles as an online community manager, has a penchant for puns, in-joke tumblrs and who occasionally gets in trouble for poking fun at his girlfriend on Twitter. He might as well have owned a blog called Simple Lampoon too.
There are in fact two stories that run parallel in Meatspace. The yin to Kitabs Yang is Aziz; together they are air guitar soloing, Budvar drinking amigos. Brothers in arms. Eventually Aziz would leave Kitab and head off to New York in a weird self appointed mission to 'find himself'. We learn of his progress throughout the book via entries to his Wordpress blog accompanied with blog comments from a selection of trolls. Trolls like you and I.
Considering my years spent relentlessly scanning streams of memes and the Twitter accounts of ‘marketing gurus’ the fact that Meatspace managed to immerse me in Kitab’s haphazard world for an entire book should not be underestimated (although, my arms did grow weary with the weight of paper I was so unaccustomed to holding). I flipped the book on it’s side as I rolled onto my back and half expected the words to auto-rotate with me like an iPad. They obviously did not. Twat.
Just like this weird technological habit, Meatspace addresses all those funny little things you do online without realising. These habits are ripe to derive humour from, and Shukla does so with accomplished self deprecating wit that is all too familiar. Quips about using breaks in 3G connection to compose a bank of pre-prepared tweets shouldn't be funny, but they are. I genuinely Lol’d.
This intimate insight into the life of an unremarkable duo has echoes of Peep Show, yet instead of point-of-view camera trickery, this time we have a listed internet browsing history with each chapter. A cheap laugh, but also a great little touch that gives you a little window into a mind of turmoil.
Touches like this, and a constant stream on on-beat cultural references make for a great read. Admittedly, I’m not the most qualified to give book reviews, but then Meatspace is for an audience like myself who can see themselves in the characters. It would easily hold up on its own as a story with enough chemistry between the characters to do so, but if like Kitab and “The first and last thing I do every day is see what strangers are saying about me.” you will instantly connect with Meatspace. Well not instantly, we’ll say ‘request pending’...