Maggie S. Lorelli
Ed.Castelvecchi, Rome 2022
"People moved, feet on the ground. Freely.
It was yesterday.
Today, every large urban center has its digital periphery, beyond the boundaries of the Circle. The eligibility selections take place inside, to change status: those who demonstrate that they know how to maintain total control over their emotions and have an iron determination can go and live on Nexus.
This is the incipit of the novel, whose title refers to "The Truman show", a famous film released in the late nineties. On the one hand, therefore, the real city, i.e. the Circle, on the other the virtual cities of Nexus, where they live “dehumanized bionic beings called Idol, or more commonly byo”, which, revered by millions, they must “producing imaginative stories and sensory experiences at a high pace,” transmitted to users of the Circle connected to brainet, the global neural network. Marya is a very popular byo.
“Thanks to his rousing broadcasts, thousands of girls in the Circle feed their hunger for notoriety.” On the other side, in the Circle, there is Filippo, a former bookseller, who, on Nexus, aspires to go there. They "he is willing to go anywhere to escape a gray existence which, since he lacks his library, appears to him as a death trap" but, in order to be able to transfer to Nexus, he must undergo an aptitude and motivational test.
Marya “She's always been good at hiding her feelings. For this she was able to pass the test easily. ”.
And then there's Adam, the Starman, computer engineer and visionary entrepreneur, who “gave birth to the business of the century: alienation from reality through migration into an illusory dimension, made possible by mass membership. He has made up his mind to dispense happiness to humans by designing a fictitious reality in which they can give form and substance to their desires by renouncing their negative emotions.” He lives in a space station. Nexus is a creature of him. “In the first period of mass diffusion of brainet, chaos reigns on the streets; one wanders blindly, following the simulacra of the web. Each image is the product of a mental transmission of the Idols of Nexus, revered as gods and proponents of an illusory dimension that allows the inhabitants of barbaric cities, those who have not made it, to daydream a glittering life.
This is the futuristic but also very current scenario in which the characters of this novel by Maggie S. Lorelli move - an eclectic personality who divides herself between concert activity, as she is a musician, writing and teaching in a high school - where it is easy to grasp an allegory of the overflowing world of social networks and influencers characterizing our era.
In the city of Philip most people "he must resign himself to a life of hardship, with the only consolation represented by the ephemeral gratifications that come from the virtual world" and lives “crammed inside the houses, where they are almost always connected, each lost in their own world. [...] If someone doesn't connect [...] they are labeled off and considered a social misfit."
The book could not miss the figure of the android, Daniel, who will break into Marya's life. But he won't be the only one doing it. Philip, "for some time now he has begun to write her long messages that have the flavor of ancient love letters." And a sort of correspondence is created between the two, a non-prohibited behavior, while, on the other hand, the Nexus regulation provides “the ban on having direct relationships with humans of the Circle.” All this does not escape Adam who will also break into Marya's life. They "he believed he was conquering her with the astonishment of a space vacation, with the narrow-minded arrogance of an enormous artificial jewel, having no idea that the love of a woman is in feeling, and not already in doing and overdoing." Indeed, Marya "in a sudden surge of rebellion, he overthrows in one fell swoop every cliché that wants women to be friends with diamonds" and flees, managing to reach Rome and find his Philip.
How? “Human energies, when tuned to the same band, attract each other like a powerful magnet.” Together they decide to take refuge in a place where they live “simple beings, who profess to be happy, who live to live, [...] devoid of the frenzy of having to appear and the frenzy of soulless communication,” a place, therefore, not yet reached by network coverage.
This is where “daily contact, without the filter of virtuality, allows them to show themselves naked in their inner life and pure in their essence.”