Miles, a lead creative at a virtual reality company, has engineered a new product called The Ghost Lover. Wildly popular from the outset, the 'game' is simple: a user's simulated life is almost identical to their reality, except they're haunted by the ghost of an ex-lover. However, when a shift in the company's strategic vision puts The Ghost Lover at the center of a platform-wide controversy, Miles becomes the target of user outrage.
A perceptive, subtly moving novel ... Winnette skillfully persuades readers to sympathize with Miles, especially in the book’s eventful second half. Employing simple but penetrating prose, he strings together understated, powerful scenes in which Miles realizes that it’s possible to live with people, and to love them, but not really know them ... Miles may have a careerist’s instincts and a turtle’s voice, but Winnette’s thoughtful depiction gives him a heart that’s not beyond redemption.
Is anxiety the dominant emotion of our time? Anxiety, and its attendant feelings of fear and paranoia, abound in Colin Winnette’s richly imagined fourth novel ... Much of the novel’s humor and tenderness emerges in these scenes of family life, where Miles’s anxiety renders him helpless, despite his fierce love for his wife and children ... Though Users is told in refreshingly unadorned prose that lets Winnette’s characters and ideas shine, I must admit I read in a state of fascinated humility as a late Gen X Luddite whose only brush with V.R. was a college demo in 1999. More than the marvelously detailed fictional innovations or the urgent questions about how we’re giving our most private selves to tech companies, what stayed with me were the passages of startling beauty about Miles’s fear of death and aging, and the bittersweet experience of watching his children grow up ... Users is not only a book for today or a warning about tomorrow, but a timeless and moving story about fatherhood and one man’s yearning for a more meaningful life.
Users is trying to position itself among a group of work-critical books and shows that have come out in the past year ... I can’t help but remember the book in scenes... a taxonomy which is encouraged by the short chapters Users is broken into. I think this is also because these scenes are focused on vivid inciting events, which they lean on in order to spur Miles into another loop of thought ... This is also why the imagistic failures stand out so clearly. The bar scene, for example, happens when Miles attends a work mixer he thinks the sender of the death threats invited him to. I was confused about where characters stood and what they were doing for about half a page, long enough to be a problem, but not long enough to be an effective stylistic choice.