[threads] is a collection of short stories by Jivan Ward that centre around how technology and the internet mingle with our everyday life and the worst sides of humanity. It’s got shades of Black Mirror but mixed with the author’s unique touch it never feels like it’s trying to be too much like the show.
There’s plenty to enjoy in Ward’s debut publication; and plenty to disgust you as well. The book tries its best to show the worst sides of the internet, opening with a character talking about watching a Taliban beheading before the book goes into the dark territories of misogynistic abuse, the ramblings of a murderer and awful poetry.
“The video opened with a group of Taliban addressing the camera. Then it panned to the guy, the poor guy, a reporter, and then they cut his head off with a saw. He gurgled, he spluttered, still alive half way through.”
Ward plays not just with the way the internet can be (and, sadly, often is) used, but also mixes up his writing style to match his topic. His stories come in the form of blog posts, product reviews and video scripts (and often have a comments section below them with the confused and confusing messages many news stories carry from their readers). While clever, it’s not always a blessing as it makes hard work to get through, such as the 1800-word review-cum-confession written by a pensioner who can’t find his punctuation keys.
“this is one thing I understand that some people might not mind but for me it is extremely annoying i dont have any recycling boxes for cardboard or plastic so i have to put everything into the normal rubbish and sometimes the garbagemen notice and they fne me and im scared that theyll charge me loads because i dont have anywhere to put them and i have to fold cardboard up a lot and squash plastic bottles into little balls”
As I read through the book, I found myself flicking through the pages more and more, as good story-telling made way for experimental writing: the vlog with stage directions and emotions written robotically in square brackets, the (possibly satirical) blog posts about best writing practises, the over-the-top description of a photo.
Mixed in among these there’s a great mind and a good writer trying to tell some interesting stories, but by the end I’d found that those qualities had been lost in the static.