How does one define a legacy?
Is it one grand thing that we do or is it a collection of things that we achieve (for good or ill) over the course of our lives that we are remembered for?
Will our legacy be deeds, or nothing more than offhand actions and tedious paper trails that document our every move and provide an insight into who we were based on nothing more than a few trips to the grocery store or maybe some take out?
Even if we manage to define our legacy, who will remember?
Will they be the beloved family or friends, the cashier or delivery driver? Or will the remembrances of our legacy be left up to an impression we make in a passing glance to a stranger on the street, or a simple hello in a friendly internet chat room?
In this increasingly digital age, where nothing remains private for long, we are at the mercy of our deeds, even the meaningless ones.
What if, for all of our deeds and goals, all of our remembrances, all of our legacies can be erased with a few deft clicks of a mouse, shredded files, and a handful of well-placed bullets?
Relying on the strict tenets of suspension of disbelief, “Erasure” is a (somewhat) minimalist look at the very real dystopian implications of our digital age. Webber reduces the social networking to its simplest form: chat rooms.
And while stripping away such luxuries as names (chat room handles and obvious aliases aside), Webber’s work of fiction eerily mirrors our culture’s obsession with non-individuals. No one is who they claim to be in the realm of Facebook, Twitter, or any other networking site that has come before or will manifest itself after.
“Erasure” does not draw obvious parallels to reality. Rather through a combination of the above mentions and the first person narrative, Webber forces the reader to unwittingly approach the situations presented in more an introspective manner. Webber’s protagonist, much like many readers, is clued in to the fact that (almost) nobody is who they seem.
Perhaps more importantly, Webber preys upon the more aware reader’s increasing paranoia as to who is actually watching us.
“Erasure” distinctly declares that this is not 1984.
Webber’s (and by default, our) reality is much more bleak. Those watching over us are more powerful than the government. Our footprints are observed by the very organizations that can topple even the most powerful governments/dictatorships/police states. This, of course, is one of the most prominent focuses in the story: no matter how careful you are, or even if you avoid the technology altogether, the question isn’t if someone is watching.
The question is just who is watching.
Webber’s book, however, is more than just techno-jargon and framework paranoia. “Erasure”, like so many great books before, is a treatise on philosophy. Through all of the intrigue and deception, all of the persona non grata, Webber asks us to take a look at the very questions I addressed in the beginning.
Through these questions, Webber puts a fresh twist on an age old question: what happens when we die? This of course, only raises more questions.
How will we be remembered?
Through these remembrances, are we ushered on to a new level or are we tethered to this world as spectators, hoping for a chance to influence those who will eventually follow us? In the end, is it better to be remembered as a villain if it means having a better chance at moving on to something better? Is there justice in being shackled to a purgatory for a lifetime of good deeds? Could we be content with the knowledge that if we are forgotten altogether, we could make a swift and clean transition from this life to whatever waits beyond?
Who we are today is nothing more than ink on paper at the very worst with the best possible result being that we will be loved and remembered by those whom we share time with while we breathe.
“Erasure” asks us to step back and take a look, not only at society, but at ourselves.
How many people need to remember us? Do we need legions of would-be worshippers keeping our memory alive, or can we be content with holding and be held by our loved ones’ memories? Like any good philosopher, A.T.H. Webber has asked an important question. Like any truly remarkable question, however, the answer lies within more questions–some that may not be answered in this life.
Or in the next.
Mosh gives this 4 our of 5 stars!
TJ Carver, aka Mosh of MoshNHops, is also married to the Bookworm. He is a nerd, gamer, metal enthusiast, who enjoys almost all forms of science fiction and fantasy. You can visit his website for the best review in metal (both indie and mainstream).