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Little Eyes is an odd little book. There's a new craze - kentukis - little computerised pets that are controlled by an unknown stranger, potentially anywhere in the world. The kentukis have cameras in their eyes and microphones in their ears. Kentukis are expensive, regardless of whether you are the keeper or the remote dweller. You sign up, switch them on and get matched up with a one time only connection to the random dweller. If the kentuki runs out of charge, the connection is irrevocably lost.

 

The novel is basically a collection of short stories - some of which are recurring and some are short one-offs. We come to each situation from the point of view either of a keeper or a dweller, then we may (or may not) get to know more about the other partner in the relationship. The kentukis witness intimate moments, moments of crisis, crimes and boredom. And the built in peril of needing to return to the charging mat is exploited to the maximum, over and over again. 

 

The stories unfold all over the globe; they explore the limits of the concept in different ways. But the stories are really not that engrossing. The characters don't develop much, there is no overarching quest, there is no connection between stories. There are occasional moments of suspense, at which point the narrative chops away to another story. The momentum is lost. 

 

The basic concept also never really convinces. Why would someone want to open their lives to someone they never know? Why would someone want to spend hours watching people watching TV? How do the numbers of dwellers and keepers match so perfectly? Why would anyone be so invested in something that typically lasts only a few days? 

 

The idea must be worth something, and there is some entertainment in some of the stories. But there is something missing. The analogies to social media and privacy concerns are not fully explored. There just isn't enough to carry the idea, good though it might be. Perhaps a generous three stars for the concept, but it would be nice to see an idea carried through a real novel. 

 

***00

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