A visionary novel about our interconnected present, about the collision of horror and humanity, from a master of the spine-tingling tale.
They’ve infiltrated homes in Hong Kong, shops in Vancouver, the streets of in Sierra Leone, town squares in Oaxaca, schools in Tel Aviv, bedrooms in Indiana. They’re everywhere. They’re here. They’re us. They’re not pets, or ghosts, or robots. They’re real people, but how can a person living in Berlin walk freely through the living room of someone in Sydney? How can someone in Bangkok have breakfast with your children in Buenos Aires, without your knowing? Especially when these people are completely anonymous, unknown, unfindable.
The characters in Samanta Schweblin’s brilliant new novel, Little Eyes, reveal the beauty of connection between far-flung souls – but yet they also expose the ugly side of our increasingly linked world. Trusting strangers can lead to unexpected love, playful encounters, and marvelous adventure, but what happens when it can also pave the way for unimaginable terror? This is a story that is already happening; it’s familiar and unsettling because it’s our present and we’re living it, we just don’t know it yet. In this prophecy of a story, Schweblin creates a dark and complex world that’s somehow so sensible, so recognizable, that once it’s entered, no one can ever leave.
“The animal’s camera was installed behind its eyes, and sometimes it spun around on the three wheels hidden in its base, moving forward or backward. Someone was controlling the creature from somewhere else, and they didn’t know who it was.”
When I first started ‘Little Eyes’ I was convinced I’d found my new favourite read. It’s a bold story, a little bit weird and a little bit mysterious and I have to say, in the initial chapters, I loved it!
Told in short snappy chapters set all around the world, ‘Little Eyes’ tells the story of a future full of small electronic animals called kentuki. I suppose in a similar way to an Alexa or similar gadget, these smart devices are always listening, however what’s different about the kentuki is that it is an plush animal, with a camera and the ability to move. Even stranger still, the owner of the kentuki, the keeper, actually interacts with a person who is behind the camera the animal contains, randomly connected at installation and known as a dweller. As a keeper, your kentuki allows someone to see you and interact with you and your world, all from behind the eyes of the animal.
I really liked the fact that this story plays out across the world because it meant that we had the opportunity to hear from a really diverse cast of characters. We read about keepers and dwellers of all kinds and in so many different places. There are five major storylines spread throughout the novel so you’re constantly dipping in and out of each country.
The story is an important one as it highlights some of the issues of present day that we flippantly put to one side. Have you really thought much about surveillance and privacy in your own life? It’s a little creepy and concerning at times. In rea life it feels entirely possible that something like a kentuki would catch on and become a successful product, although I like to think that they would be controlled a little better than in this story!
The first half of this book had me hooked and I really enjoyed it. Somewhere in the second half, I began to lose a little interest in the storyline. I think that once the idea was in play and the stories continued, I found it to be a little predictable and less exciting than the initial chapters. I think that for me this book would have had more power as a short story, and would have felt much more shocking and thought provoking, like an episode of Black Mirror.
I was surprised to find that this is translated fiction, originally written in Spanish. I didn’t notice this at all in the read which I think it a sign of good translation.
Although ‘Little Eyes’ didn’t wrap up as my dream read, I still really enjoyed it and have found myself talking about it with friends and family. I’ll definitely consider reading more by Samanta Schweblin. I’ve heard her novella ‘Fever Dream’ is worth a read!
Overall rating: “Little Eyes” is a strange but wonderful read about a new digital toy called a kentuki, a fluffy animal that you keep in your home but there’s someone watching you through its eyes. I really enjoyed this read and look forward to reading more by this author. 4 stars!