Sunday, July 3, 2016

I Am No One

I Am No One by Patrick Flanery
Crown/Archetype: 7/5/16
eBook review copy; 352 pages
ISBN-13: 9781101905852

I Am No One by Patrick Flanery is a recommended character study about the loss of personal privacy in the age of public security concerns.

When Professor Jeremy O'Keefe failed to get tenure at Columbia, he took a position at Oxford University shortly after 9/11, leaving his soon-to-be-ex wife and daughter back in the States. After living in the U.K. for ten years and acquiring dual citizenship, he accepts a position at NYU and returns to NYC. He begins to receive mysterious boxes containing records of his Internet browsing history, phone calls, and photos from the past ten years. What event in his life could have triggered this surveillance? Then there is Michael Ramsey, a young man who keeps unexpectedly appearing in Jeremy's daily life. Is he being followed? And is Ramsey the same young man who seems to be watching his apartment? What could Jeremy have possibly done to warrant this intense scrutiny?

I Am No One is written as a first person narrative utilizing long sentences in a formal tone.  And Jeremy does drone on and on and on. He is not the most compelling or interesting character, so he could potentially represent an everyman - but no, not really, once the whole story comes out. He is also simply too formal, wordy, pedantic, and, most of all, boring, before all the information is revealed. There are many characters that are delusional about their actions and the consequences of those actions, so the struggle is to make us care about this particular everyman. In that goal, Flanery did not succeed.

Where the novel succeeds is in the cautionary portion of the narrative. Most average people don't know or really care about the extent of government intrusion and surveillance in their private lives; or, for that matter, the loss of privacy through other entities. All of our activities are kept track of in some way, especially digitally (stores with rewards cards or those who track your browsing history on their site, etc.). The government may not be watching you specifically, but someone is carefully tracking some part of your life, even if the goal is commercial.

This is not a thriller or even a mystery. It is a character study with a message - and it moves excruciatingly slowly. Finishing the novel became a feat of endurance for me. The quality of the writing is wonderful, which helped my determination to persevere to the end. While I appreciate the overarching message and warning, the presentation may not appeal to a wide audience

Disclosure: My advanced reading copy was courtesy of the publisher for review purposes.

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