Hum by Helen Phillips

I learned about this book from the Summer Reading Guide on the What Should I Read Next? podcast. It won’t be published until August 6. I was able to read it early by getting an advance reader copy from Netgalley in exchange for this honest review.

The story is about a mother in a near future where AI robots called “hums” and public surveillance are everywhere. The first part of the book is a depressing litany of the living poor in a high tech world succumbing to climate change and slowly losing jobs to automation. After being let go, the mom gets paid to have a procedure to make her face unrecognizable to facial recognition. She uses the windfall to pay back rent and for a vacation at the Botanical Gardens with her husband and two children. While there, a crisis with her children is the event that sets off the main conflict of the novel.

This tale is well-told and realistically evokes the everyday struggles of the working poor trying to raise a family in a world that seems to keep them down at every turn. Additionally, it explores the struggle of parents to raise their kids to be well-rounded adults with all the distractions that technology affords. Unfortunately, I found the balance of the story to be off a bit too much for me. The bleakness heavily outweighs the message. It reminds me of an episode of Black Mirror on Netflix. It gives me that same vague horror of something that could really happen but never should without the same storytelling punch that series delivers.

My rating 3.5/5

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