It is rare for a novel to be genuinely funny and truly touching, and to also to raise significant philosophical questions ... structurally elegant, with entire sections made up of whole sentences, then a break ... Pathos, comedy, satire (there is no moon in Jared’s time since Elon Musk blew it up), a car-chase, The Great American Zero Sum game, daftness, a nefarious nemesis, what it means to be human (memory? emotion? reason? always making the wrong decisions?), a ghost section, parodies, anger, and a shining sense of the novel being ultimately a machine that makes humans a little more human if possible. It is probably too ebullient to be taken seriously for prizes ... You shall read this with unadulterated pleasure. It is the closest thing I’ve read in a long time to Terry Pratchett.
Jared’s sad yet chipper register sets a breezy tone against a semi-satirical dystopian backdrop, never dwelling too long on the Great Crash that downed all the world’s aeroplanes, or the nuclear exchange that destroyed North Korea and New Zealand, or Elon Musk’s accidental incineration of the moon. There’s a does-not-compute strain of comedy to his observations on the habits of our species and a melancholy heft to his more sombre insights ... What comes across most strongly is a love of popular movies and a deeply felt reflection on what they tell us about ourselves. Maybe Stephenson’s idea was to bypass the frustrations of pitching and selling scripts with a novel so obviously adaptable as to shift him to the top of the pile. In which case, job done ... But even before we enjoy it on screen, we can appreciate his mastery of the formulas and stratagems by which character and plot can mine us for empathy – the benevolent exploitation that all good stories rely upon. There may be something too cute about Jared for some, and this reader did not care for his constant exclamation marks, but only the truly heartless would deny the art at work here, or the attendant swell of pride.
... a backdrop that feels akin to an episode of Black Mirror. Yet rather than filling us with dread, Set My Heart to Five has a more hopeful tone than the dystopian TV show ... a bizarre premise told yet more bizarrely — Jared has a distinctive yet often grating narrative voice. Luckily the plot is gripping and, if you can wade through the terrible bot jokes, there are some genuinely funny lines ... without the hindrance of its jarring writing style, I wouldn’t be surprised if this pacy and emotive story finds itself better suited to the screen.