Book review: Einsteiner by VK Fourstone

One man goes to war with Big Tech in this taut sci-fi thriller 

Designer and novelist VK Fourstone offers an ominous vision of things to come in Einsteiner, a dystopian thriller in which tech companies threaten to take over not only the world but human consciousness as well.

Set in a near future where a mysterious corporation called Collective Mind has worked out how to harvest human creativity, it explores the sacrifices we make, sometimes unwittingly, to the tech firms that have come to dominate modern life. Creativity, you see, is a finite resource that, with the help of a powerful computer called the Einsteiner, can be downloaded and multiplied to solve the great problems of the age. Using creativity from thousands of willing donors, Collective Mind cures cancer and AIDs, halts global warming and provides healthcare for nearly the entire world.

But all this comes at a price. Those who sell their creativity - Fourstone calls them "Happies" - live out their days in a state of valueless contentment, never sad, but never achieving anything beyond the fulfilment of the most superficial human needs. Isaac Leroy, the book’s rebellious protagonist, breaks free from the monotony of his daily life as a bar tender and dares to challenge the tech conglomerates systematically turning mankind into an army of pliant automatons.

The parallels with our digitally-saturated lives are all too apparent. When gargantuan tech companies come bearing gifts, to what extent can we trust their good intentions? Google’s creepy company motto "Don't be evil" comes to mind, as does its sly infiltration into all corners of our lives. Fourstone ekes the moral out of his story without laboring the point, and maintains a galloping pace all the way to the final twist.

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