Reviewed by Helen Wyatt
When we were chosen to receive this item to review, I was very intrigued. I chose not to look the book up in advance but waited instead to be surprised by the book’s arrival. Written by Chris Colin, the title suggested it would be right up my street, being called “Off: the day the internet died, a bedtime fantasy”, alluding to current modern-day over-reliance on screens as entertainment, rather than living our lives in the “real world”, as it were.
The book itself was smaller than I imagined when it arrived. It is a hardback, with a matte finish. The cover page illustrations, by Rinee Shah, are reminiscent of holy figures from early illuminated manuscripts, but also coupled with whimsical drawings of flamingos. If you look closely you can also see one of the figures is wearing sports socks, and on the ground by his feet is an electrical device with the symbol indicating a lack of wifi.
The pages inside the book have a glossier finish and are of good quality. What is most visually arresting is the gothic typeface used, which seems quite unusual until you start reading the text, when the choice becomes much clearer. The first page gives a clear indication of the satirical tone of the rest of the book, writing about the modern age in a rather tongue-in-cheek biblical style such as:
“On the 11,402nd day, the screens went dark, and I said: LET US MOURN THIS WICKEDNESS WITH GIFS. Yet only stillness creepeth upon my devices. They just sat there. And I did too”
As this quote indicates, the book is written as if narrated by a mysterious protagonist who all of a sudden is thrust into a world where the internet switches off for some unknown reason. The pages tell a tale of the narrator and associated people slowly discovering a world outside of the web, such as people listening to podcasts consisting of just their own thoughts, baking without knowing of which recipe was rated highest, and playing the new version of Minecraft which was a game involving sticks and leaves.
Some of the pages have references to 90s pop culture, which I rather enjoyed being a teen of the 90s, and other perhaps more obscure references such as to Dungeons and Dragons. The book moves from the first day the internet died, to the year the screens went dark and finally ends with commentary on the decade and century the screens went dark, suggesting ultimately a closer connection to nature and each other, and giving the experience “four out of five hearts”!
The book is full of delightful illustrations which mix the old (pre-internet Biblical style) with the new (cherubs holding broken laptops). My favourite page is one which hints that the internet isn’t actually all bad, when a room fills with sewage due to lack of control by the appropriate systems:
“On the day the screens went dark, threescore inches of sewage streamed unto the basement because forsooth, turns out the Internet controls the something something wastewater treatment sensor something. Okay, so mixed bag”
All in all I really enjoyed this book, and chuckled through most of it. It is it quite short, at just 16 pages, but as a gift this could be lovely to light-heartedly poke fun at the modern internet obsessed age.
This product can be purchased from Prestel Publishing here.