This was an interesting book, perhaps a bit too clever for its own good. Having just finished another book with a very similar framing narrative (Homegoing), I can say it’s not always distracting to do the whole “each subsequent chapter is based on something/someone from the prior chapter” thing. That being said, what you need to retain from chapter to chapter is a sense of emotional resonance to string together what are otherwise rather disparate short stories-ish.
This book also, perhaps obviously, made me think of The Circle, and honestly the similarities in both of their last names made me do a small double take to see whether they’re actually related in some way (they’re not. Their names are not similar).
Point being, this is a Black Mirror esque story about what happens when big scary Technology gets too overwhelming and takes over society. I say that without much sarcasm–technology is pretty much an overwhelming force, and for every positive (connectivity) you get a negative (pretty much everything else)–and it’s no wonder that, much like the Evils of Industrialism or Evils of War or Evils of Whatever Else that occupied authors in older time periods, technology occupies the authors of today.
A thing to note is that I wouldn’t even be all that fussed to have the technology being described by Egan. The ability to sort through all your memories? Never again wondering who a person was? Recall the best parts of your past? Endlessly revisit the cringey-est memories of your youth? Relive trauma over and over again…thus lies the rub, I suppose. Many things are good in moderation. Many things become overwhelming in excess.
Egan follows this world to the/a logical conclusion, many years in the future, where everyone goes beep boop and is wearing silver unitards. This long after reading it, the thought that sticks out to me is how much I would have preferred fewer POVs and more time spent in each one. Unless the aforementioned Homegoing, each new world was interesting in and of itself, and I felt like you don’t get to learn enough about them.