Five years ago, I reviewed Jennifer Egan’s Manhattan Beach and found that it was seven years ago that her Pulitzer Prize-winning visit from The Goon Squad was published. I was a little disappointed, to be honest, but when I found out about the candy house in the schedules, I raised my hand, drawn to the idea of a novel that promised to explore our growing passion for online life. Candy House, which opened in 2010, explores the effects of a technology that captures our consciousness through a series of stories linked by characters, all related to Bix Boulton, The Creator of your own consciousness.

It was only a matter of time before someone made them pay for what they thought was free. Why couldn’t anyone see it?

At the age of forty, Bix faces an empty horizon, unsure of the next step for his highly successful company Mandala. During a rare night walk, he discovers a flyer promoting a discussion group following a lecture by Miranda Kline, author of Patterns of Affinity, on which Bix is based on the algorithms underlying Own your Own Consciousness, which deeply annoyed Kline. Joining the group incognito, Bix experiences a revelation that leads to a collective consciousness that allows subscribers to access other people’s memories and experiences after uploading their own. The ties that emerge at this meeting will intersect in the coming quarter century, as the collective consciousness grows and a countermovement of individuals determined to escape an online identity becomes almost as large as Mandala. When BIX dies, a circle is almost reversed when her son sees a different version of the world rooted in authenticity.

I see now that the place I desired is my own imagination.

It is impossible to write a synopsis close to the complexity of Egan’s ambitious novel with its various narrative styles, some of which are fragmented, jumping from one character to another, tightening the threads of connection, sometimes more obliquely than others. While I wouldn’t call this a sequel, fans of visiting The Goon Squad might want to consider reading it again, as part of that network is the return of some of the main protagonists and their children. This is far from a simple novel, and there was one section in particular that didn’t work for me, but it’s certainly an impressive one with a good dose of dry humor to help it out, and the themes are on the button. Definitely a book that would pay back the reread,

though I might have to dust off my copy of Goon Squad before thinking about it.

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