On its face, the internet kill switch is such an on-the-nose science fiction premise that it’s a wonder Maughan is the first author to get it to market. Luckily, in his hands, the broadstroke concept trickles down into weird and unexpected crevices: sage futurism, political treatise, and mournful meditation on the violence of technological dependency. Maughan writes in a swift, almost breathless present tense, as if he needs to get this out as quickly as possible. Maybe he does.
This is Infinite Detail’s deceptively simple, high-concept premise: if the internet isn’t an unmitigated good—as it so clearly isn’t—what would happen if we just turned it off? And what if it happened without any warning? In less capable hands, these questions might serve as an excuse for Hunger Games–style apocalypse porn. Perhaps even worse, they might prompt an uncritical fantasy of a post-technological turn to a prelapsarian ideal ... Maughan is interested less in the bleakness of the pre- or post-apocalypse and more in a deep exploration of both the unwitting consequences of our contemporary regimes of datafication and surveillance and the conditions of possibility for life, art, and culture in their wake ... Infinite Detail is kaleidoscopic in its attention to life and culture before, during, and after the internet ... Infinite Detail resists easy answers, preferring instead to linger in the questions themselves. I take this as proof of Maughan’s rigor as a thinker about technology and its cultures. In a growing ecosystem of vapid thought leaders, it’s refreshing to have a voice able to do the hard and necessary work of imagining what new ways of being actually look like in practice.
... a politically astute, fascinating, and depressing glimpse of a near future brought to its knees by the abrupt death of the internet ... What stands out the most about Infinite Detail, isn’t Maughan’s fine understanding of technology, or his appreciation of a world without the internet, but how the novel is a critique on the nature of revolution ... What’s so timely and powerful about this book is how pragmatic it is about the current moment, how Maughan appreciates that the internet, the cloud, those pesky algorithms are firmly embedded in our capitalist reality and that disentangling ourselves, without completely destroying civilisation as we know it, will be a difficult task.
... Infinite Detail...gain[s] energy from the current crisis of realism by relying both on the verisimilitude of uncanny tech and the feeling of being suddenly pitched from a knowable genre into a much nastier one ... [it] combine[s] a recognizable noir plot with a monstrous-internet-society plot (not, to be clear, like the plot of The Hunger Games, with its youthful canniness about survival in a corrupt system, but instead with adult plots of irrevocable guilt and shame). However, they also borrow the serviceable 'band of hackers' trope from cyberpunk and can’t resist fetishizing the sublimity of the internet, depicted as a kind of Big Other ... Infinite Detail convincingly depicts two haunted futures, the first one disturbingly near to our own era ... At the same time that Infinite Detail undermines its optimistic hackers’ brief carnivalesque success with the cold reality of loss and death that follows, the book feels mildly dated in its depiction of an internet driven more by the “fun pirate” aesthetic than by the rise of the alt-right ... Infinite Detail is...at its most vivid in depicting disintegration in Britain, America, and China, but the reader wonders whether urban collapse would really map this cleanly onto global collapse.
Maughan’s central thesis—that the global society would shatter into small pieces without online connectivity—is carefully presented and seems chillingly plausible. The novel says something important and thought provoking about such hot-topic issues as privacy, the interconnectedness of the world’s population, and class structure; but, thanks to Maughan’s rigorously developed characters and his ability to tell a compelling story, the book is never preachy. A seriously good page-turner with plenty of meat on its bones.
Dynamic, sprawling, post-postmodern cyberpunk ... Maughan handles it beautifully with maximalist daring and depth; the result is an energetic novel about civilization as it races toward the ultimate overload.
You never know quite what you’re going to get with journalist Maughan’s thoughtful dystopian debut novel, which offers a blush of cyberpunk, a shakerful of Neal Stephenson, and a dash of Cory Doctorow’s speculative fiction ... The story is a bit fractured in structure, but the characters are compelling, and it’s worth reaching the end just to find out how Maughan wraps up this Byzantine puzzle box ... An original and engaging work of kitchen-sink dystopia.