Infinite Detail is a smart and timely contribution to speculative technology that imagines a future naturally extended from our current, global state of digital reliance and surveillance. Cyberterrorists fed up with what feels like empty gestures on a digital battleground decide to complete their war against the corporations and governments controlling the internet by destroying the whole thing.
Maughan explores how we get to that point, the mixture of idealism, iconoclasm, and finally insurrection. And then, what happens next? Maughan offers us fragments, snapshots, and keyholes through which try to ascertain what survives the crash, what forms of power fill the void left when our global, electronic infrastructure simply vanishes. Together we ask: What don’t we now know? What new mythologies form? What new geopolitical lines get drawn and by whom? How many will die in this revolution?
Overall, the book is a well-written and cohesive. Like many “big idea” books in science or speculative fiction, Maughan’s characters are only as complex as necessary to keep us thinking about the questions. They aren’t on an arc. We don’t really identify with them. The goal is for us the readers to grapple with the reality presented in the book. The construction of the book is slices of “Before” and “After” set up contrasts and create a mystery-like feel to the novel as we slowly piece together the details of what has happened/is happening and why. The book offers a nice companion to recent nonfiction like The Age of Surveillance Capitalism. As I began, it is a timely book. I recommend reading it before its speculations start merging with real reality.