Everyone in Silico: Jim Munroe, paperback, 241 pgs By Sean Carswell

Feb 02, 2011

I liked Jim Munroe’s previous novel, Angry Young Spaceman, so much that I had mixed feelings about receiving Everyone in Silico. Part of me was excited to see the new novel; part of me was apprehensive, wondering if Munroe could follow up Spaceman with an equally good novel. I got about four pages into Everyone in Silico, and my apprehensions were laid to rest. By the time I finished this novel, I realized that Munroe had outdone himself.

The novel takes place in Vancouver in 2036. All governments have been done away with. Corporations rule the world (so it’s not too different from the present day). Paper money, paper books, libraries, and things like that are all a part of the past. A Microsoft-type company, Self, has created a virtual world called Frisco. People can check their bodies in to the local Self office, and their brain is uploaded directly to Frisco, where they can go a long way towards creating their own reality. Frisco isn’t perfect by any means. Since you no longer have a body, you no longer need to sleep or eat. This makes for a longer work day. And everyone in Frisco seems to be working harder in some aspects of their lives and getting along much easier in other aspects. The majority of the novel, however, takes place outside of Frisco. It centers around mostly-young radicals and different groups who have formed a resistance to Self and other dominant corporations. The novel skips around from character to character. Gradually, each one begins to interact with the others, and the reader can see how they’re all interconnected. Munroe also does a fantastic job of setting up a seamless future world: a world plausible enough to allow you to become completely lost in it.

Beyond the plot and politics, though, what makes Everyone in Silico a really enjoyable novel is the characters. Since each chapter follows one specific character, you tend to lose certain other characters for a couple of chapters. This makes you really want to keep turning the pages so you can get back to hanging out with, say Nicky, the artist who uses genetics as her canvas and pulls a short con to support herself; or Eileen, the aging revolutionary who is taking on Self by herself; or even Doug, a corporate coolhunter who’s so deep in debt that he becomes blind to the world around him, yet still has enough irreverence to make him likable. It’s strange for me to think that an essentially allegorical sci-fi novel could be so strongly character-driven, but Munroe really pulls it off.

And this gets me to the ending. I want to be very careful when talking about it. I don’t want to give anything away, here, and I don’t think I will. As I read the last couple of pages of the book, I kept thinking, there’s no way he’s gonna pull this all together. There’s just not enough room for Munroe to tie up all the loose ends. I read through to the last sentence and thought, damn it, he didn’t tie it all together. What about this and what about that? Then, I sat in my recliner for about twenty or thirty minutes flipping back through the last chapters, re-reading bits and pieces. As I re-read passages with the ending already in mind, everything started to make sense to me. I realized that everything was tied up. It all did come together in the end. It’s just that the ending isn’t readily obvious. Wow, I thought. That’s impressive. Munroe wrote a book that I don’t necessarily have to read a second time, but I’ll definitely keep a copy of this in my bookshelf and read it again. –Sean Carswell (No Media Kings, 10 Trellanock Ave., Toronto, OntarioM1C 5B5 http://www.nomediakings.org/)