*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc We Are Satellites by Sarah Pinsker #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #WeAreSatellinesbook review


That cover first attracted me – and then the blurb. Any parent will recognise that opening line as the battlecry their offspring invariably use when they want the latest gismo – and the truth of it snagged my attention. And the fact that Tammy of Books, Bones and Buffy was highlighting it also made me look twice – she has a great knack for sniffing out the special ones…

BLURB: Everybody’s getting one.
Val and Julie just want what’s best for their kids, David and Sophie. So when teenage son David comes home one day asking for a Pilot, a new brain implant to help with school, they reluctantly agree. This is the future, after all. Soon, Julie feels mounting pressure at work to get a Pilot to keep pace with her colleagues, leaving Val and Sophie part of the shrinking minority of people without the device.

Before long, the implications are clear, for the family and society: get a Pilot or get left behind. With government subsidies and no downside, why would anyone refuse? And how do you stop a technology once it’s everywhere? Those are the questions Sophie and her anti-Pilot movement rise up to answer, even if it puts them up against the Pilot’s powerful manufacturer and pits Sophie against the people she loves most.

REVIEW: Initially, I started this one waiting for the family dynamic to twist into something darker… For there to be a hidden, nasty past that would catch up with Val or Julie; for there to be something dire about the children’s origins; for an alien something to come crawling out of the woodwork and capitalise on the Pilot. And I’m delighted to say that nothing like that happened. This book is more intelligently plotted than that.

Instead, it is a real look at a likely scenario that could unfold within our present near-future if an app is invented to increase the brain’s ability to multi-task and focus – and it’s ongoing impact on a specific family over a number of years… And if that sounds a bit dull, or workaday, it isn’t. While this isn’t the book to go to if you want full-on action with lots of explosive battles, the dilemmas created by using the Pilot had me turning the pages waaay into the night to discover how it pans out. And what happens to those who can’t or won’t use the Pilot, once it has been successfully rolled out to most of the population…

I loved both Val and Julie, who are thoughtful, caring parents who want the best for their children and agonise about David’s desperate desire to be able to keep up with his richer classmates. Julie, who works for a high-profile politician, also comes under pressure to acquire a Pilot to keep on top of her boss’s schedule. And then, there’s Val who hates the very idea of having anything so intrusive anywhere near her brain, especially as their daughter, Sophie, will never be able to have one fitted because of her epileptic seizures. We follow their fortunes as the consequences of their difference decisions unspool over a number of years.

The depth of the characterisation, the quality of the narrative arc and the final fallout worked really well for me. In particular, I found David’s plight really poignant – and I would just add a trigger warning for drug abuse and PTSD. I’m aware that I might have made this sound rather drearily worthy. It’s nothing of the sort – there are shafts of humour within the family snark, the prose is punchy and the tight pacing keeps the story rolling forward at a brisk lick. I haven’t encountered this author before – but this certainly won’t be the last time I’ll be reading her work. Highly recommended for both sci fi fans and those who enjoy reading family-centred stories with an unusual dynamic. While I obtained an arc of We Are Satellites from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.

10 responses »

  1. This is a story that seems to touch on very actual issues: no one is implanting gizmos in their brains nowadays (well, not yet…) but there still is a divide between people with the ability and the means to use technology, and those who cannot, particularly if they are among the elderly and therefore less technically-inclined. I would be very curious to see how this novel deals with the issue…
    Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    • You’re welcome, Maddalena:). And you’re right – there is a gulf between the computer-literate and those who aren’t. And it yawned horribly during lockdown when the children who didn’t have access to computers or screens were seriously disadvantaged when lessons were moved online:((.

  2. I’m so glad you loved this! And you even beat me to it😀 I just couldn’t fit it in last month, but I hope to catch up soon. This will be my second of her books, and I love seeing that 10/10 rating😁

    • Well, I’m not sure I would have picked it up without seeing your recommendation:)) But I’m very grateful for it – this one has made my Outstanding Reads lists of the year, for sure.

  3. This sounds like one of those reads where even though it’s science fiction, the whole time you’re reading, it’s in the back of your mind how plausible the events of the story actually are. I love sci-fi reads like that!

    • Oh yes – the whole scenario seemed scarily plausible. Even the twists at the end, and that isn’t something that generally happens. Those cute twists are usually at the expense of any kind of realism (I’m looking at you, Andrew Mayne!!).

    • I haven’t read that one – but what really, really impressed me about this, is that it resisted the lure of the Hollywood treatment, or going all deep and dark on us… Strong, well written story with believable characters. I need to get hold of more of her writing!

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