Stagg’s slim novel deftly explores the shifting landscape of celebrity through the story of a young woman’s rise from obscurity to Internet stardom after an online flirtation with a semifamous social media personality ... Told in the affectless, minimal style of Jean Rhys’s Good Morning, Midnight, the novel avoids direct descriptions of the virtual world at its center, instead focusing on the anonymous hotel rooms and black-lit nightclubs that serve as its staging ground.
...a sustained investigation of what it means to create an identity online. Through a confessional first-person account of an erudite and self-absorbed young woman’s rise to Internet fame, Stagg at once deflates and makes full use of social and social media fallacies, pathologies, currencies, circularities, and desire/feedback loops.
...some of the cleverest moments in Surveys are riffs on the quotidian absurdities thrown up by digital culture ... The epiphany, when it comes, is an eloquent and damning précis of social media narcissism, and its pernicious symbiosis of egotism and voyeurism ... Stagg deploys a flat, colorless register in order to bring out the mechanical monotony of the process in which Colleen is engaged, showing up the inherent fakery of the spectacle of glamour. Dialogue is pointedly insipid and the narrator’s own adjectival range regressively limited ... The effect, however, is severely diluted for want of consistency: the first-person narrative voice lapses frequently into a different, altogether more self-conscious key. The text flits between sociological rumination and diaristic introspection. The result is a stylistic haphazardness that makes Surveys, for all its topicality and emotional insight, more notable for its thematic interest than its aesthetic qualities.
If at times Surveys — with its easy tableau of precocious oversharing — appears to celebrate Internet acclaim, it ultimately becomes clear that its verdict regarding ephemeral, empty fame is all too somber.