Utopia is Creepy and Other Provocations
By Nicholas Carr
W.W. Norton and Company
Reviewed by Jason Pettus
To be clear, I would've loved to have read a book of insightful, thought-provoking essays about how everything we assume about the internet is in fact wrong, as Nicholas Carr promises with his new book, Utopia is Creepy and Other Provocations; so what a profound shame, then, that what this book actually consists of is a bunch of reprints of three-page blog posts from Carr's website, a whopping 95 of them in less than 350 pages, giving us the same kind of puerile, surface-level-only look at issues that he claims is what's ruining the internet in general these days. That's an entirely avoidable situation in this case, which is what makes this such a particular tragedy; for the Pulitzer-nominated Carr is obviously a smart guy, former executive editor of the Harvard Business Review and a regular contributor to places like The New York Times and Wired, and I suspect he could've delivered a really intelligent book if he had just spent a year actually writing one from scratch, one that slowly and methodically builds up his arguments over the course of tens of thousands of words and a coherent single book-long outline. Instead, though, he's delivered what's essentially a series of 21st-century two-minute Andy Rooney elderly rants with no real point and certainly no solutions being offered -- "Wikipedia sure is full of mistakes, amirightfolks? 'Blog' sure is a funny name, amirightfolks? Second Life sure was overhyped, amirightfolks? AMIRIGHT FOLKS, AMIRIGHT AMIRIGHT??!!" -- thus ironically being exactly guilty himself of what he's complaining about in this book, how the internet has turned all of us into short-attention-span ADD morons who no longer possess the mental skills to follow a rational and extensively plotted argument. A book that would've already been a profoundly disappointing read on its own, it becomes even doubly so by this self-defeating, cloud-yelling aspect of its writing style; and instead of it being merely a book I don't recommend reading, today I am actively suggesting to stay far away from it, if for no other reason so to discourage publishers to continuing to offer up this kind of treacly pablum as proper intellectual fare.
Out of 10: 2.3