The Unbinding: A Novel
by Walter Kirn
Big Brother Gets A Laptop
A review by Snowden Wright
What does a high-definition television with a rabbit-ear antenna have in common with Walter Kirn's latest novel? They both combine systems of old and new design. The Unbinding, an epistolary novel originally serialized on Slate.com, uses old-fashioned literary devices (serialization, found documents) as a means of addressing a modern subject and storytelling platform (the World Wide Web). The result is a book as enjoyable as it is unique.
Although conceived as an "Internet novel," the book maintains traditional themes, tones, and conflicts -- alienation from society, ironic disaffection, and government conspiracy. The novel's centers around Kent Selkirk, a mysterious everyman prone to colorful white lies, and an apocalyptic plot known as "the Unbinding" that involves the Internet, a subscription satellite service, and Tom Cruise. Call it Phillip K. Dick with less paranoia and more humor.
Oftentimes the novel's social commentary is a little too cute, and the three narrators' voices a bit too similar. Overall, however, The Unbinding succeeds -- even in print form. The prose retains the immediacy of its real-time authorship. The web links are available for clicking and surfing on the novel's website. It's proof that online or off, a good story is still a good story.
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