3 February 2020
Before I begin my rant, know that 1) I think K.L. Denman’s Faster than Truth is well worth reading, and 2) M.T. Anderson’s Feed (2002) is even more fabulous, and a far more profound consideration of our complex society than this review suggests. (I really need to write a better review of Feed, but that is a much longer project, best put off until another day.) I link the two titles because both deal with a society in which technology—specifically media and digital propaganda—have become a concern. Feed is a future dystopia; Faster than Truth is set in our current world.
Faster than Truth: The Review
It’s not an easy task, making a far-less-than-ideal protagonist sympathetic; and I’m struggling with how well I think K.L. Denman does so in Faster than Truth. Unlike Titus—the protagonist of M.T. Anderson’s Feed (2002), and the epitome of self-absorbed adolescence—Declan admits his culpability, and ultimately forms an understanding of himself and his world that allows us to feel hope for the adult he will become.
Initially, though, I felt like smacking him. Declan is in many ways a normal, impulsive adolescent, but he grates on my nerves: the hypocrisy between his self-satisfied attitude towards journalism and his actions seems like poor characterization. He expounds high ideals of journalistic integrity and yet publishes a story based on a photo of a private email, which he knows is not the complete communication, without checking any facts; the incongruity seems too great. Then I remembered that he is an adolescent, and I remembered, too, how unthinking teens can be—including myself. But Declan is clueless on so many levels. His friend Ravi is a far more insightful character. Her eye-rolls and sarcastic comments are a foil for Declan’s obtuseness, and give credence to Declan’s ability to grow into a deeper understanding as the novel progresses. Still, I wonder how a girl as artistically talented and thoughtful as Ravi could be attracted to such a shallow, self-absorbed boy as Declan appears to be.
Perhaps because of his willingness to accept the responsibility for his actions and try to set things right, Declan does reach a better understanding—unlike Titus, whose friend Violet dies as a result of the sociopolitical forces that she stands up against.
More importantly than Declan’s growth as a character, the message that Faster than Truth presents is essential knowledge for everyone in our society today. Once a message—or photo—or comment—is uploaded into the digital cloud, there is no way to retract it. The damage is done. The onus is upon us all, not just the news media, as Declan learns, to be careful with what we publish, what we say, and what we believe. Without preaching, Faster than Truth informs readers of the need to be aware of the biases in what they read online, whether from individuals or the news media. That lesson, more than anything, makes me wish all students—all people—could read Faster than Truth and internalize its message.