Reading Temi Oh’s More Perfect was a distinct kind of scary. When I finished the book I wondered, did I just finish reading prophecy? Is this what we are heading toward? Should I delete all of my social media accounts? What can I do individually to stop this from happening in real life?
More Perfect takes place in a near future dystopian London where a tiny piece of technology called the Pulse implants social media directly into the brain. The Pulse allows corporations and the British government direct access to human thought. Written by ALA Alex Award-winning science fiction writer Temi Oh, More Perfect explores a frightening possible future with shocking clarity, making it hard to put down this 578-page novel.
Like all great science fiction, More Perfect amplifies our concerns about the impact of technology on our culture with an eerie reality that makes the reader think this could actually happen in ten years. The novel begins with one of the main characters, thirteen-year-old Moremi, on the day she is receiving the Pulse implant. Moremi is the last person in her class to receive the Pulse because her mother is concerned about the technology.
The technology sounds incredible. Having the Pulse implant allows access to the Panopticon network. Imagine being able to communicate with people without words and read each other’s memories. The implant allows people to change their appearance, creating avatars that can fulfill the dreams of any cosplayer without the work it takes to make an actual costume and apply make up. Moremi’s mother is in a minority of parents who don’t have the implant and wonders why her daughters feel the need to be connected 24/7.
The second main character is fourteen-year-old Orpheus, who lives with his father in isolation on an island off the grid as a part of the resistance. No Pulse, no screens, no technology whatsoever. Orpheus’ father is strict and not afraid to use the rod for discipline. Of course Orpheus’ curiosity leads to tragedy. This propels him into a world of chaos that places him in a role he never expected to take on but in reality turns out to be the role he was born to play.
Temi Oh graduated from King’s College in 2015 with a BSc in neuroscience, received her MA in creative writing from the University of Edinburgh in 2016, wrote the award winning novel Do You Dream of Terra Two?, and has written stories for Marvel’s Black Panther, Dr. Who, and Overwatch. The Nigerian-British writer is a wife and new mom and infuses a heartfelt romance into the book that feels like it was written by someone who is loved and loves deeply.
Like all great writers, Oh has the ability to make complex subject matter easily understandable. Readers are instantly able to fall in love with Moremi and Orpheus. It is so wonderful to experience a world of science fiction that centers two Black main characters and places the impact of being Black in this society into the narrative.
Not only does More Perfect take on the ethics of technology implanted in the brain, it raises the stakes by giving us a group of people who resist corporate influence and dare to question having a man-made device that allows the government access to your thoughts to be implanted into the cerebral cortexes of the entire population of London and beyond. What does resistance look like in a world where drones connected to the Panopticon can track anyone down in a matter of minutes?
As I read the book I still couldn’t quite get my mind around a future where a device could gain access to the ultimate private space: human thought. Temi Oh does a fantastic job creating characters who are nuanced and complex. She also sets up situations that mirror what we’ve just endured during the global pandemic that make this novel even more relatable.
As Moremi and Orpheus navigate their way through this dystopian world, the impact of being Black in a majority white society is not lost in translation. The ways the government uses technology to alienate people of color doesn’t stop; it just evolves in ways that feel real. The socio-economic challenges that come up in this novel added rich texture to the stakes that motivate the characters to make the decisions that drive the narrative, making this book a page turner that you won’t want to put down.
The book is substantive and allows the reader to luxuriate in fiction. Reading Temi Oh’s novel reminded me how much I love reading. The writing paints a clear picture on the mind that stays with the reader long after the chapter is read. More Perfect is a wonderful summer read that will make the reader a little frightened of the possibility but leaves the reader with a sense of regret and, dare I say, hope.
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Jeanine is a Writer, Actor, member SAG/AFTRA, AEA, Podcast host, Producer, CEO VisAbleBlackWoman Productions, Certified Health Coach and Conscious Dance facilitator. Jeanine's mission, centering Black women's stories to preserve our legacies.