Have You Decided on Your Question: Novelette Review
Have you decided on your question?
Lyndsey Croal’s sci-fi novelette set in near-future Edinburgh follows Zoe, a young woman who hasn’t quite figured out life. She works a boring corporate job that pulled her off course from her creative dreams, isn’t dating, and has a roommate she almost tolerates. Zoe starts off complacent, nowhere near happy but certainly not rallying too hard against her reality. Not until she enters the world of ART, an artificial ‘treatment’ that allows her to imagine a world of new possibilities, does her dissatisfaction grow into an obsession.
ART is meant to show Zoe how her life could be, to inspire her to change course and start living again, but it’s immediate from the get-go that a technology such as ART has the potential to be very, very dangerous.
The most frightening thing about this black-mirror-esque story is that it feels real. It feels relatable. Though the story takes place in the future and features tech that isn’t possible in our current reality, it had me questioning my own obsessions and addictions – social media, smart phones, a need for instant-gratification, a woefully shortened attention span. I felt like Zoe, swept up in a life that I didn’t quite plan, wishing for a different future and drawn toward technology to fill a void.
A current of dread is woven through the story, made stronger by the current of dread that is woven through real life – I don’t have to mention all the things that make life difficult and frightening in 2023.
I read the novelette (which is a lovely word for a long short story!) on the train between Edinburgh and Glasgow. As I immersed myself in Zoe’s world, and as Zoe in turn immersed herself in an artificial reality, I felt that I, too, might be walking that fine line between want and obsession, between hope and destruction. I realised, when I got to the last page and there were no more words to read (despite me repeatedly clicking my Kindle to read more, read on), that I knew my question: so what are you going to do about it?