The amount of people registered on Facebook is higher than the population of any country. Ever since the internet’s inception, its been affecting our speech and thinking. Popular sites are especially effective at this. The whole ‘intellectual property’ discussion became huge thanks piracy. File sharing sites proved there’s something between selling and buying. Social networks became an essential part of people’s lives. Facebook is perhaps the most important one. We expect pretty much anyone to have a Facebook account, just like we expect anyone to have a phone number. If you don’t think Facebook deserves to be a center for a novel, you and the zeitgeist are probably not on speaking terms.
The premise of The Future of Us can sure sound gimmicky, but exactly because it’s Facebook that has the potential to be great. It doesn’t get there, but that’s because the authors are hesitant to try hard enough. They got enough confidence and intention to not make this a typical romantic comedy, even if the tropes appear often. The novel is more concerned with the characters and the themes than trying to great a romantic thrill, but not enough.
The novel’s highlights are the descriptions of the relationship with Facebook. Facebook plays a different role in this story. It serves as some sort of prophet, rather than a social networking site. Yet the character’s relationship with it mirrors ours. They’re obsessed with their future selves like one will be obsessed with a crush. They look at the surface details, base their whole conclusions on them and do what they can to change them.
Despite being a culture with a lot less internet, Facebook quickly takes the same power it has on them like it has on us. That’s because it’s a site that allows you to get easy and quick information about other people. It allows you sum yourself up in a few statuses and pictures. It would have been successful during any time. The desire to know others and expose ourselves was always there. It’s what communication’s all about. It’s not unique to an internet-obsessed culture like us.
It also helps to have good two leads. Emma and Josh aren’t boring romantic leads. They’re two people, each with their own distinct view on things. It especially helps how Mackler breaks stereotypes without really trying. Emma’s existence isn’t one guy. In fact, she’s a fairly promiscous and sexually open person. It’s not presented as something to be cured, or as something bold that makes Emma a feminist icon. It’s to give her a different worldview than Josh.
Josh isn’t just the nice guy that the girl needs to grow up in order to appreciate. By the time he becomes the right choice for Emma, it’s less because ‘he’s not a jerk’ and more because of the relationship between them and his other qualities. Asher didn’t write him as a martyred nice guy, but as a more laid-back person that counters Emma’s ambitions.
Having the right ingridients isn’t enough though. Asher and Mackler are competent, but there’s nothing here that raises the novel above merely ‘good’. It may be the prose, which flows well and is free from bullshit, but contains no unique voice or insight to the characters. It may that the side characters don’t have a life outside the plot, and they exist mostly to be the wise men who give the main character’s advice.
The plotting is also generic. There’s a side-plot that feels very out of place. It felt like it was ripped from an old draft that was written more like a comic thriller. It may worked there, but the end result aims for something much deeper, so the sudden shift in tone doesn’t help. The progress of the romance is also disappointing. It’s more natural than most novels, and the authors don’t commit the sin of having the characters suddenly decide they’re in love. Yet, by the time they are, there isn’t enough basis for their relationships. There’s enough for them to be good friends, but they make unconvincing lovers.
There is room in the world for novels like this though. It’s not one that uses ‘light hearted’as an excuse to cover up flaws. It’s a genuinely entertaining story with good characters and interesting themes. It may not do more than that, but masterpieces can be exhausting. If romance or the internet are subjects you’re into, there’s more to enjoy than get angry at in The Future of Us.
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