Review: The Horrors of Fearmongering (& Marketing) in ‘Vigilance’

Vigilance features the kind of horrifying sci-fi future that gets under your skin, making you think about the state of the world and the steps it would take for us to get to this kind of hellscape. In this version of the future, America is gun-obsessed, flocking to their television screens to watch mass shootings and bet money on the outcomes. It’s uncomfortable, to say the least.

The novella examines the fascinating and disturbing dichotomy between marketing and the perceived reality of the masses. Buried deep within the horrors of a country where guns are as common as cell phones, we see a media-driven world filled with AI-run ads, targeting the perfect demographics so they’ll tune in for the mayhem. Everything on the television is fake, besides the actual event, and it’s created specifically with the audience in mind. This is a world where advertising has completely taken over, running anything and everything to wring every dollar from the public. They’ve created a version of America that isn’t real, and it leads the country to complete and utter ruin.

The main character is this nightmare of a person who thinks purely in marketing terms as he watches the horror unfold. He’s so far gone that he can’t see people as people — he only sees ad revenues and the spikes or dips in social media engagement that need to be dealt with. His boss is the very definition of greed, an ancient man held together by advanced medical machinery who is drowning in wealth but spending his final days still trying to make a buck. Believe me when I say everyone is awful.

In the end, Vigilance borders the line between science fiction and horror, giving us a glimpse at what America could be if we continue down a path of fear, intolerance and hatred. It’s an apocalyptic nightmare that feels uncomfortably real, leaving you in a state of unease that’s hard to shake.

Vigilance

By Robert Jackson Bennett
Tor.com


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