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Exploded View is conceptually brilliant but flawed in execution

Exploded View

Sam McPheeters


Sci Fi & Fantasy, Mystery & Thrillers

Pub Date 18 October 2016


Conceptually, Exploded View is brilliant. It raises questions about how we decide what to believe about the images and situations presented by the media. As our ability to manipulate image and data becomes all the more sophisticated, and media sources are driven by the desire to profit, how can we judge what is true? A cut here, an addition there, editing can change how a situation is perceived, based upon what is being "sold" at that moment. Then ramp it up.

All but the poorest citizens or refugees have high tech eyewear connecting them constantly to a virtual world where commerce is supreme and social media is omnipresent. It juxtaposes transparency and the power of anonymity. It is a world where children play Strangers on a Train without thought acting against social media targets. Exploded View is thought provoking in the extreme, but as a novel it falters because it tries to do too much at once. It sacrifices a straightforward plot for ideology. Still there is a lot to like as long as you don't get too mired down.

I was somewhat disappointed by the ending. On the one hand the idea that a virus can change perception and cause drastic personal action is intriguing. On the other hand it seems to abdicate human culpability.

Stimulating thought is the hallmark of a good novel, but I can't help but think Exploded View would have benefited greatly by some streamlining. Based on writing alone, Exploded View rates a 3. Its innovative ideas, however, allow me to give it a 4.


I received a copy of Exploded View from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.



It's 2050 and LAPD Detective Terri Pastuzka has drawn the short straw with her first assignment of the new decade. Someone has executed one of the city’s countless immigrants, and no one (besides the usual besieged advocacy groups) seems to much care. Even Terri herself is already looking ahead to her next case before an unexpected development reveals there’s far more to this corpse than meets the eye

And a lot already meets the eye. In a city immersed in augmented reality, the LAPD have their own superior network of high-tech eyewear—PanOpts, the ultimate panopticon—allowing Terri instant access to files and suspects and literal insertion into the crime scene using security footage captured from every angle the day the murder occurred. What started as a single homicide turns into a string of unsolved murders that tie together in frightening ways, leading Terri down a rabbit hole through Los Angeles’s conflicting realities—augmented and virtual, fantastically rumored and harrowingly true—towards an impossible conclusion.

Exploded View is the story of a city frozen in crisis, haunted by hardship and overwhelmed by refugees, where technology gives everyday citizens the power to digitally reshape news in real time, and where hard video evidence is impotent against the sheer, unrelenting power of belief. After all, when anyone can forge their own version of the truth, what use is any other reality?

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