Home > 2010, 21st Century, American Literature, Beach and Public Transports Books, Bennet Robert Jackson, Dystopian Fiction, Highly Recommended, Polar > Vigilance by Robert Jackson Bennett – Killing in the name of…a game

Vigilance by Robert Jackson Bennett – Killing in the name of…a game

February 3, 2022 Leave a comment Go to comments

Vigilance by Robert Jackson Bennett (2019) French title : Vigilance. Translated by Gilles Goullet.

His Ideal Person is between sixty-four and eighty-one years old. Their average net worth is $202,900, and they are male, Caucasian, and increasingly burdened with medical debt.

Living conditions, he thinks.

McDean’s Ideal Person is decidedly suburban or exurban, having resided an extensive, rigorously planned residential environment (two trees per front yard, gated community, six possible styles of brick) for at least the past ten years, and their home falls between 2,000 and 6,500 square feet— They are not, in other words, « urban » in any sense of the words, and they are decidedly isolated.

Another variable, he thinks. Marriage.

His Ideal Person has been married but the number of marriages doesn’t really matter : McDean’s models indicate that an Ideal Person with up to six marriages under their belt will still generate the minimum target market activation level.

Vigilance by Robert Jackson Bennett is a dystopian fiction set in the USA in 2030. America has become a country where people are afraid of terrorists, feel threatened by immigrants and everyone has guns. Mass-shootings are the norm.

McDean is an executive at ONT, a cable TV channel and in charge of the reality TV show Vigilance. All he thinks about is his targeted audience (The Ideal Person), his Target Market Activation level and maximizing the revenue of advertising.

We arrive in the book just as McDean is going to launch a new episode of the show Vigilance.

Basically, Vigilance is a live mass-shooting program. ONT organizes a mass-shooting somewhere in the country. Three candidates are armed by the channel, picking their own weapons and are sent out on a location with the aim to kill as many persons as possible. The last killer alive wins a hefty prize. If someone on the location kills a candidate, they get a prize. People are motivated to have a gun with them and use it. Indeed, a Vigilance game can start anywhere, any time. They are told to be ready.

The killers are profiled by AIs. Algorithms and AIs select the location where the shooting takes place. Malls, train stations, most of the time. Bots spread information on social networks to have the public on edge. People know a new episode of Vigilance is imminent but they don’t know where and when.

The point of view shifts to Delyna, a barmaid to a local dive, the South Tavern. Her customers are drinking and speculating about the next Vigilance episode. Most of the patrons have guns. Delyna doesn’t share their love for guns since her father was a policeman and he was shot on duty. She’s wary of firearms and appalled by the behavior of the patrons. They are looking for a fight. They are excited by the game. They’re so intoxicated by the advertising (propaganda?) of the game that they don’t even realize what this show is about: killing people.

Like in a film, the camera swtiches from the TV headquarters to the bar, as we follow the action on both sides. We see all the TV and AI machinery used to manipulate the public and maximize profits. We see how much it works and how people have lost all critical sense. It’s their new normal. The people who get killed? They weren’t quick enough on their feet, not vigilant enough to save their life.

Vigilance is like an action movie set in an America who has surrendered to gun power and fear. It’s chilling. In 150 pages, Bennett draws an implacable picture that sounds way too realistic. Punchy, scary and thought-provoking. It reminded me of books by Max Barry, especially Jennifer Government.

Very highly recommended.

PS : In France, Vigilance is published by the Indie Publisher, Le Bélial, specialized in SF and Fantasy. Not my usual reads. I came accross Vigilance thanks to the libraire of Un Petit noir. Indie publisher, indie bookshop, all is good for Karen and Lizzie’s #ReadIndies2.

  1. February 3, 2022 at 2:10 pm

    Perhaps a little too on the nose for me, but it’s a great premise.

    Like

    • February 4, 2022 at 11:40 am

      It’s excellent and this libraire is specialized in good Crime Fiction.

      Like

  2. February 3, 2022 at 9:39 pm

    Definitely sounds very scary – and a great choice for ReadIndies!!

    Like

    • February 4, 2022 at 11:49 am

      It is awfully realistic. The libraire from Un Petit Noir helped me discover a new author and a new publisher!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. February 5, 2022 at 9:25 pm

    What a concept! Sounds like a book from which it’s hard to look away (also, hard to look at, paradoxically)!

    Like

    • February 7, 2022 at 10:23 pm

      It’s excellent. Chilling because it’s so plausible and at the same time, once you have started, you want to watch the train wreck until the end.
      And there are spot on remarks about American society that I didn’t include in my billet, mostly because I don’t have the book in the original but in French.
      It’s only 150 pages long but Bennett sure packs a huge punch in the gut.

      Like

  4. February 6, 2022 at 11:46 am

    This sounds truly scary. Dystopian fiction that is so believable is horribly compelling.

    Like

    • February 7, 2022 at 10:24 pm

      Very scary but also very interesting to read. Only 150 pages. Can be read in one sitting and well-worth the effort.

      Liked by 1 person

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