Vigilance by Robert Jackson Bennett

Target audiences. Literally targets on the audience. The sting of the algorithm. The most effective and damaging placements of ads for the manipulated populace. Tell them what they need, then sell it to them.

Bennett creates a game show in the near future built on fear, guns, and money. Active shooters are armed and then released into enclosed public spaces. It may be a mall or a bus station or a sports stadium. ‘Players’ and the once-bystander public are rewarded money for kills. In a near future where resources are depleted and divisions of class and race are embroiled and seething, people openly carry in an effort to be ‘Vigilant.’

Running Man unleashed upon the masses. Two threads follow the action: a bartender with a room full of drunken fans watching the night’s events, and the director of the show holding the strings of the shooters, the corporate entities, and most importantly, the feed for the public to consume.

In many ways, the novella format is perfect for this story. A snapshot of two main characters, the setup of the show, and blistering execution. Bennett makes a good shift from fantasy to SF speculation: the numbers mapping out the intentions of each aspect of the live-stream, the digital AI ramping up for the cuts and timing. And the length also lends itself well to the overall dark tone of the book. No spoilers, but the ending comes at the perfect moment. The moment when Bennett nudges you… Nope, pushes you off the cliff.

Definitely Recommended.

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