4 out of 4 stars
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When the Eye Sees Itself by Eric Borgerson is an intense novel that juggles a variety of themes strikingly well. It's set in the future when technology allows people to experience each others' consciousnesses by linking their brains on the quantum level. Society in When the Eye Sees Itself is separated into Aggressives, who are persecuted, Citizens, who have full rights, and Vulnerables, who are restricted and protected by the government. Borgerson manages to make these disparate and undeniably esoteric elements fit together extremely well, though, and this novel's worldbuilding is stunningly vivid.
As soon as this internal social context is built, though, it's broken down through the accounts of characters who are personally impacted by its shortcomings. The book mainly follows Leo Baksh, an advocate (essentially, lawyer) for Vulnerables. His journey alone is compelling, but his relationships with other people and how they affect one another are what truly made me invested in his story. Every character feels unique and vibrant, but above all else, their stories are interconnected in a way that many authors fail to accomplish.
While there's a strong focus on relationships, the book is set in a time of socio-political upheaval. It depicts politics in a way that feels simultaneously larger-than-life and painfully relevant, as multiple groups fight to sway public opinion in their own interest. There's no time wasted on diatribes bashing the existing social system, instead, readers are forced to confront its very real consequences. At its heart, When the Eye Sees Itself is the epitome of the philosophy "show, don't tell".
The only substantial flaw I saw in this book is that it sometimes felt like it was tackling too much. While it was very successful in weaving an overall narrative, it was still somewhat jarring to abandon a character's storyline in favor of third-person narration of the world's politics. Because of how rooted in their environment the characters themselves were, though, this wasn't much of a problem when reading the book as a whole.
I rate When the Eye Sees Itself 4 out of 4 stars. It's intense and harrowing, with many dark themes, but it also has an undercurrent of hope and a character-driven style that made it incredibly easy to be drawn into. I'd caution that its writing style, while not verbose, contains words that aren't commonly used, which when combined with its subject matter means that it can be very intellectually demanding. I'd strongly recommend this for mature audiences who are interested in challenging science fiction and dystopian novels. It may be worth reading in small chunks - it can take some effort to get into, but the rewards are very much worth it.
When the Eye Sees Itself
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