(Book Review) ‘Little Eyes’ by Samanta Schweblin / サマンタ・シュウェブリン

by Miki
0 comment

What if you could connect with someone you don’t know, through a Furby-ish animal doll? You could peek through into a stranger’s life, or even form a deep bond with them through these strange animal gadgets. What would you do?


‘Little Eyes’ is a powerful story in which the reader is made to constantly question the ‘correct’ usage of technology. The animal gadgets at the centre of the plot are called ‘kentuki’. Some people own them – called ‘keepers’ – while others can go ‘inside’ the fluffy doll – called ‘dwellers’ – controlling the movement of the animal gadget, just like a video game or radio controlled toy car. Neither group of users can choose who to connect with. ‘Kentuki’ will keep moving, under the control of the dweller, until the day the battery runs out. Therefore, the ‘dweller’ is incentivised to try hard to be taken care of by their respective ‘keeper’, so that they will regularly charge them and maintain their connection.

「Little Eyes」は、テクノロジーをどう使うべきか考えさせる、とても力強いフィクションです。動物型のガジェットは「Kentuki」と呼ばれ、Kentukiを購入して「Keeper 持つ」側になる人と、Kentukiの動きをコントロールできるライセンスを買った「dweller 戦う」側になる人がいます。戦う側は、ビデオゲームやラジコンのように、kentukiを動かし、そのガジェットの目からkeeperの生活を見ることができます。どちらの側も、どこの誰と「繋がる」か選ぶことはできません。Kentukiのバッテリーが切れてしまったら、この繋がり、コネクションも切れ、ゲームオーバー。だからこそ、戦う側は、どうにか、持つ側の人にきちんとケアしてもらえるよう(充電器につないでもらえるよう)、上手く動物をコントロールしていかねばなりません。

It’s not just that the setting of this book is so unique, it’s the realistic depiction of the people experiencing these new ‘kentuki’ gadgets too. At points, it was almost like a horror story as you are forced to witness humanity’s ugly, greedy side, and how they might tend toward extracting the maximum benefit from a given situation. Some scenes were rather shocking, involving both sexual abuse and an instance that feels very much like extreme gaming addiction. On the other hand, some users find a scope for practical use of this new ‘kentuki’ technology in daily business, or to act for a wider social benefit.


The novel was longlisted for the Man Booker International Prize in 2020, and I ended up reading it during the first lockdown in London. It was such an interesting experience, knowing the world around me is completely connected via the internet, and yet there I was in a flat, with a sense of solitude and with each passing day more of a desire to connect with people on SNS. But… who might be reading my communications? These essentially surreal interactions on anonymous platforms really are potentially risky, while interactions with strangers on the Internet is something we are already well familiar with in our daily life. This book made me even more aware of the risks associated with new technology and how we need to approach them with caution; limiting our use where necessary, and protecting ourselves from advancement that threatens to outpace us as users. The vivid portrayal of human interactions via the medium of the internet was utterly uncomfortable to read, as portrayed in this book, but this only served to make it a more meaningful read in terms of digging deep and exploring the fundamental nature of this kind of ‘connection’.


Oneworld (Translated by Megan McDowell)

0 comment

Related Articles

Leave a Comment

* By using this form you agree with the storage and handling of your data by this website.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More