The City Inside
By Samit Basu
In one sense, the city of The City Inside (the North American title given a book originally released as Chosen Spirits) is New Delhi, or a “New New Delhi,” in the not-too-distant future. Indian society has passed through a period of crisis now referred to as the Years Not to Be Discussed and come out the other side an even more dystopic place, riven by a brutal class system, a broken democracy, and abiding problems resulting from everything getting hotter and dirtier due to climate change and pollution.
As bad as politics and global warming have gotten though, what’s happened online (the city deeper inside) is even worse. This is now the world of Flow, which is dominated by personalities who stream their lives as a kind of Truman Show. These apex influencers are known as Flowstars and they’re managed by Flowcos. Joey works for one such Flowco, helping to promote the Flow of a star with the ironic name of Indi. But Joey’s life is about to become a lot more complicated.
For anyone not a digital native the evolution of social media/virtual reality is leading to a space more alien and frankly depressing than the old cyberspace of books like Neuromancer. In today’s SF the Internet has become a corporate prison-house administered by the forces of celebrity, surveillance, and hierarchies of capital, making The City Inside less a dystopian future than something very close to the way we live now. The Internet never wanted to be free.