Kim Curran – Glaze

kimcurran-glazePETRI QUINN is counting down the days till she turns 16 and can get on GLAZE – the ultimate social network that is bringing the whole world together into one global family. But when a peaceful government protest turns into a full-blown riot with Petri shouldering the blame, she’s handed a ban. Her life is over before it’s even started.

Desperate to be a part of the hooked-up society, Petri finds an underground hacker group and gets a black market chip fitted. But this chip has a problem: it has no filter and no off switch. Petri can see everything happening on GLAZE, all the time. Including things she was never meant to see.

As her life is plunged into danger, Petri is faced with a choice. Join GLAZE… or destroy it.

Social media—for most people they have become a ubiquitous part of everyday life. Checking in with family on Facebook, sending a quick WhatsApp message to your friend letting them know you’ll be late for coffee, instagramming a photo of that beautiful sunset or tweeting your opinions on the latest Game of Thrones episode, it’s all done on social media and almost everyone has at least one account. Unless you’re like my husband, who flatly refuses. Then again, he didn’t have a mobile phone until 2002 either, so maybe he’s just a bit of a Luddite when it comes to these things. Anyway, with the advent of the popularity of social media, also came the realisation that people giving out all this personal information so freely could well be used for evil, or at least for nefarious purposes. Kim Curran’s Glaze explores what these purposes might be and shows that it may not even be due to bad intentions. 

Glaze is a neural social network. The user is implanted with a chip that interfaces with their visual and aural cortex allowing them to see and hear things directly transmitted to the chip. It’s a sort of internet, Twitter, YouTube, Netflix etc. all rolled into one. Once on Glaze you’re always connected and always on creating something that resembles something of a Hive mind; once one person sees or hears something, it can be transmitted and go viral almost instantaneously. Due to developmental issues with the brain, there is an age restriction for getting chipped. You can only get on Glaze once you turn sixteen, which of course creates a large divide between the under-sixteens and the over-sixteens. I loved the Glaze blocker at Petri’s school, which isn’t just so people won’t send each other virtual notes during class or just space out surfing and not pay attention, but also to avoid cheating etc. Glaze adds another complication to what is already a complicated age to be and part of Petri’s story is about dealing with feeling left out and left behind.

Petri is in many ways a classic outsider. Intelligent and gifted, she’s skipped a grade and as a consequence is a year younger than most of her classmates. In addition she is the daughter of the well-known Creative Director of Glaze’s parent company, Zizi Quinn, conceived through IVF and she doesn’t known who her father is. All of this sets her apart from her peers and leaves her feeling more and more isolated, especially since most of her friends have turned sixteen and gotten on Glaze. With her mum always working and distant, she feels lonelier still, though their relationship is strained at the best of times. Due to the fact that Petri isn’t on Glaze means she can’t truly connect to those who have been chipped. As a consequence, most of the secondary characters feel rather distant and nebulous. The only ones that really felt like they has a solid shape to them were her class mates Kiara and Ryan, the mysterious boy Ethan, her mum Zizi and Max, the owner of Glaze.

Glaze‘s portrayal of social dynamics is fascinating. The network creates a literal digital divide: those who are on and those on the outside looking in. It changes behaviour and creates a dependence in its users that is alarming. If you think we’re in a panic now when our connection is down or Twitter is out, the scenes when Glaze cuts out are terrifying in its implications. Curran looks at several different ways the technology could be used and highlights both good and bad uses of said possibilities, such as for example Glaze’s ability to influence mood, which can help people with depression or other mood disorders. On the other hand, it can also be used to make people docile and influence them unduly. The identification in the chip means that one can always be identified, so it’s easy to trace people, which is good in the case of a missing person or a crime being committed, but bad for all the same reasons we dislike the NSA being able to track everything we do—Glaze would be a dream come true for any intelligence or security agency.

The counter culture inspired by Glaze and the societal shifts it has inspired is very cool. I loved the NF group Petri joins as to me they felt a little like the crew in The Matrix, with Logan as Morpheus and Ethan as Trinity, though why they would do so is beyond me, as there is nothing remotely Matrix-y to the narrative. Petri’s introduction to the NF comes through Ryan one of her classmates, the one she’s had a crush on for forever. However, she’s also very much drawn to Ethan, the mysterious boy she’s met a number of times, who turns out to be a member of the NF. The whirlwind romance between Petri and Ethan was fast, but I did believe in it. On the other hand, I loved how things played out between Petri and Ryan as that felt so true to life and Ryan is such an utter douche canoe! So while there was certainly romance to the book, it never became really central to the narrative, which I liked.

I really loved Glaze. It’s very different from Curran’s Shift series, but it shares its snappy dialogue and great pacing. I also liked the fact that this is definitely a standalone story with a finished story arc and resolution, but with the sense that the story will go on without us. If you enjoy near future SF and socially-aware stories, Glaze is just the ticket. Curran is proving to be a very talented writer, one who never fails to deliver in her stories, and I can’t wait to discover what else she can do.

This book was provided for review by the author.