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.