THE BLOG

Book Review: The Four-Dimensional Human by Laurence Scott

29/04/2016 17:08

In a world more socially connected than ever before, it is hard for niche tastes to maintain their exclusivity. This is the problem of hive-cool, where stylistic trends soon lose their cachet from being transmitted so effortlessly to everyone else.

Getting these blog posts in front of people is tough. I have a routine check list I go through when reviewing a book that I think works in getting it seen by the people that might be interested in reading it. Firstly, I take a photograph of the books cover, posting it to Instagram and Twitter informing any followers that might happen to be interested in reading my reviews with the various hash tags and links. During this process, I always try and find the digital identity of the author. I know that eventually when I get round to having a book of my own published, any critic, no matter it be that of a humble HuffpostUK blogger or the decorated book critic of the New York Times, I will want to hear their thoughts.
Secondly, I find the publisher on Twitter and try and tag them so that hopefully the review will find the correct audience to enjoy it, get inspired, buy the book for themselves or loved ones. Failing that, they stay well clear of it and give it a nice big wide berth, especially if the book is a load of rubbish! I'm sure I'm not alone in embracing social media in this way and I expect many more have far more inventive ways to reach a wider audience, which if you do, please feel free to share your secrets. So, it comes with some tiny spec of irony and perhaps even a dash of genius that out there, in the various social digital spheres, Laurence Scott, the author of the Four-Dimensional Human, isn't orbiting around us and self-promoting. Not on Twitter, not on facebook, not on instagram, (I didn't check LinkedIn) I couldn't find him anywhere.

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Within the pages of his book, Scott tackles with the feelings and fears of people aware that the changes currently affecting our personas, relationships and language are all shifting at a rate of ultra fast broadband; some parts too fast to notice and others far too fast to stop! Has loneliness been replaced with the fear of missing out? Has the joy of boredom taken the shape of a late night thumbing facebook workout? Scott addresses these fears as well as highlighting the instant access to celebrity via viral content, drawing past mistakes in human endeavour and asking the question; how far will some of us go to be noticed? Like the famous actor desperate to remain current, online content is a "go with it or be left behind" movement. It is this lack of control and the fears associated that override the theme of Scott's book. It's not surprising that in 2013 he reviewed a title for the Guardian newspaper called Who Owns the Future? by Jaron Lanier. A book riddled with paranoia and fear of the eventual singularity, where potentially our robot overloads will enact their hatful vengeance.

A lecturer in English and Creative Writing, Scott is very much in command of his thoughts and a master at formulating them into beautiful sentences. The Four-Dimensional Human was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction in 2015 and won the Jerwood Award a year earlier. Laurence Scott is "that guy" and a great love of his craft is obvious when he protests for an entire chapter on the death of Verbs and the rise of the Nouns! Nevertheless, what a writer he is, his knowledge and intelligence might leave you wishing you were the same. In some places, I felt that he could have been showing off his knack of English, as most pages contained a word that I didn't know. That, combined with the image of him typing while taking a sip out of his half empty glass of the future, as chapter 3 then became chapter 4, I started to like him less and less. His fearful rants plagued the end of nearly every chapter. Commenting on the facebook "happy birthday!" nudges he presents only two outcomes, both negative;

"can the fiftieth Happy Birthday! hold on to its sincerity, or do its long string of predecessors give it an unintended sarcasm?".

He appears to make an argument that the Google car will take away from us the freedoms that come with driving. Using Thelma and Louise as a poor example that if they want to end their own lives in a Google car, they wouldn't be able to. Scott fails to look back at our history. The motorcar saved the horse. Horses would lay dead at the side of roads, many of which abandoned. The best thing to ever happen to the horse was the car and for Scott to argue that the joy of driving would be eradicated for the sake of not having to worry about it, is naive and shows a real detachment from the understanding of people. The subtitle "Ways of Being in the Digital World" doesn't have any relevance to the book at all, as this is certainly not a guide book, but more a vomiting load of big words that only offer an insight into the 4D world through eyes that are blinkered and completely out of touch. He also hates Mr Tickle and I happen to really love Mr Tickle.

If you enjoy the ramblings of a well-read show off technophobe, and like to pretend that you know what the words, luxuriating, mercurially and ephemerality mean, or your name happens to be Will Self, then this is the book for you.

The Four Dimensional Human is available in paperback and hardback from Amazon and all good book shops.

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