U. is a 'corporate anthropologist' who, while working on a giant, epoch-defining project no one really understands, is also tasked with writing the Great Report on our society. But instead, U. spends his days procrastinating, meandering through endless buffer-zones of information and becoming obsessed by the images with which the world bombards him on a daily basis: oil spills, African traffic jams, roller-blade processions.
Is there a secret logic holding all these images together? Once cracked, will it unlock the master-meaning of our era? Might it have something to do with the dead parachutists in the news? Perhaps; perhaps not.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Satin Island is a pretty intense read. It's set in a hypermodern version of our own world, where we follow the story of U.—an anthropologist hired by a consultancy to help them better understand consumers. Whether it’s his lover or his boss, U. connects with other people only via screens. Tom McCarthy’s eerie novel offers an unsettling view of a disconnected society. His astute observations and avant-garde writing style totally justify his spot on the 2015 Man Booker Prize shortlist.
McCarthy's newest novel is as delightfully unclassifiable as his last effort, C. The narrator is U., a fanciful and probing anthropologist who works for a corporation he refers to simply as "the Company." Recruited as an ethnographer on the reputation he earned through his published study of nightclub culture, U. has been commissioned by his boss, Peyman, to write what he calls "the Great Report"; but U. can't seem to get started or be sure if he's necessarily even working on the Great Report at any given moment. Though he associates with people who have consequential experiences (his friend Petr dies of cancer) his thoughts are more often occupied by abstract concepts, images, patterns, and theories. U. is intent on making connections and creating meaning from the information he takes in, to the point where he begins to compile dossiers on various topics including parachute accidents and oil spills. His ultimate goal is to combine all of these together into a "Present-Tense Anthropology." The book itself subtly takes the form of his Great Report, with U. often addressing the reader, and is marked by fascinating philosophical tangents that justify the apparent lack of a story. This novel of ideas is begging to be read and reread for meaning with pens, diagrams, and maybe even a dossier or two thrown in for good measure.