Bookshelf: Horrifying vision of humans wired to the internet

Resolution by AN Wilson
Resolution by AN Wilson
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Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari. Harvill Secker, £25 (ebook £12.99). Review by Liz Ryan

Following the global success of his book Sapiens, about the history of humankind, Harari turns his attention to the future. The thrust of his argument is that rapid technological developments are evolving a new kind of human being – long-lived, possibly immortal, and hard-wired into the data processes of the internet. His reasoning is laid out with a lucidity that makes it a joy to read. But his vision is terrifying and perhaps, ultimately, irresponsible. Human rights, for example, might indeed just be another story humankind tells itself. But they’re currently our best consensual effort at a decent society.

Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer. Hamish Hamilton, £20 (ebook £9.99). Review by Jade Craddock

Eleven years after his last novel, Jonathan Safran Foer returns with an ambitious tale about an American Jewish family, the Blochs, who have come to something of a crossroads in their lives. Jacob Bloch’s grandfather is considering whether to take his own life, his wife Julia has just discovered Jacob’s “other” phone with explicit text messages, their son Sam has been accused of writing offensive words at school and, to top it all, the family pet is on its last legs. Foer’s saga aims a microscopic lens on the dynamics of the Blochs whilst simultaneously taking a telescopic view of the geopolitical tableau, and it is a hard act to maintain across a novel of this length.

Resolution by AN Wilson. Atlantic Books, £16.99 (ebook £6.99). Review by Will Ennett

AN Wilson has turned his attention to the historical novel to depict the adventures of George Forster, who sailed aboard HMS Resolution as part of Captain Cook’s feted second expedition. The spirit of exploration and discovery in this tale isn’t just confined to that voyage, which charted coastlines to maps for the first time and catalogued many fauna and species. Themes such as Enlightenment, Romanticism and the upheavals of the French Revolution all act as jolts to the plot lines. Amidst all the big ideas, it is Wilson’s depiction of Forster, the perennial wanderer never truly comfortable in any given location or time, that keeps the reader engaged.

I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within us and a Grander View of Life by Ed Yong. The Bodley Head, £20. Review by Bridie Pritchard

For a long time, the popular view has been to see microbes as killers. However, science writer Ed Yong considers the importance of these tiny organisms to the overall balance and harmony of both the survival of an individual creature and to whole eco-systems. Microbes can be both helpful and destructive to the health of the body they inhabit, and some species can’t properly develop without the help of their microbes switching on protective mechanisms. Yong makes difficult concepts and scientific terms easy to understand – and his excitement at the variety and astonishing wonder of nature makes him an enthusiastic and engaging writer.