For your summer reading pleasure, I’m adding a second recommendation to the one I made yesterday. This one is only available as an e-book and at 92 pages almost qualifies as a short story. What I hate about short stories is that if you get attached to the characters, they end too soon. This ends way too soon for me. There is so much more that could have been done with this set-up and there was so much more I wanted to know about the characters in it. But that aside, this is a worthy tale of life in the 21st Century and how technology can so easily distract us from the reality of life itself.
Written by Dr. Stephanie Bennett, Within the Walls on the surface is a story of technology and our humanity. It pits the power of once well-meaning institutions against what is best for the individual. This story confronts us with the possibility that our digital lives doesn’t necessarily enhance our human experience, but can in the end dehumanize us by luring us away from the substance of life itself. What happens when someone begins to see through the illusion, and why do others feel it important to hide the truth at all costs and thus preserve the illusion?
The story is set in 2071 sometime after a nuclear event has destroyed much of the world. Twenty-nine year-old Emilya loves here work as a creator of virtual vacations, until an inner uneasiness begins to plague her. Something is wrong, but what is it? Soon she finds herself ostracized at work and the questions only grow. Then she finds a strange letter from her deceased mother that had never been sent to her. Questions continue to pile up that launch Emilya on a quest for truth that upends her world. Clues that others who’ve gone before her and left behind become the bread crumbs she must read correctly. As an added delight the writings of Jacques Ellul, the French philosopher and Christian anarchist, help bring depth to her pursuit.
Ms. Bennett is a gifted communicator, who quickly grabs our attention and enmeshes us in Emilya’s story. I was rooting for her to find the truth and hopeful that in doing so we’d get some valuable ideas about making space away from the media’s ever-present demands, to find some measure of engagement with what is more transcendent.
Here’s an excerpt:
We were looking for a spacious place where the mind could wander free—-where we weren’t tethered to walls and the constant flow of information. We wanted to use technologies, but started to see that we were inadvertently creating a society that was unfit for human beings. We were creating this new world. It was horrifying to see that we developed these new tools, instead of using them to our best advantage, we were letting them use us!
On the surface this fast-paced novella challenges our view of media and how it seeks to dominate our our attention. However our media rarely lives up to its promise and few question what it crowds out that may be far more meaningful. That, alone, makes this story worth reading. But for those who dare, there’s a more subtle story here of how our mechanized, religious approaches to God have distorted our view of life and robbed us of more relevant engagements with God and his creation.
Thought-provoking, engaging, and satisfying, this story does not disappoint, except in its brevity. And for me to say so, tells you how much I enjoyed this story.
You can order it from Amazon Kindle here. (Within the Walls by Stephanie Bennett • 92 pages • $5.00 • e-book)