Anyone who knows me pretty well knows where I stand in regards to privacy, surveillance, and Big Brother. I generally stay away from social media services and apps that get too personal (*cough* Facebook), and I don't post photos of myself anywhere on the Internet. That said, I was super excited when I initially read the synopsis for I Am No One by Patrick Flanery.
The novel's official synopsis (from Penguin/Random House) is as follows:
After a decade living in England, Jeremy O’Keefe returns to New York, where he has been hired as a professor of German history at New York University. Though comfortable in his new life, and happy to be near his daughter once again, Jeremy continues to feel the quiet pangs of loneliness. Walking through the city at night, it’s as though he could disappear and no one would even notice.
Sounds pretty interesting, right? But no, don't be fooled. I don't think many readers can stick with this book, and actually enjoy it.
But soon, Jeremy’s life begins taking strange turns: boxes containing records of his online activity are delivered to his apartment, a young man seems to be following him, and his elderly mother receives anonymous phone calls slandering her son. Why, he wonders, would anyone want to watch him so closely, and, even more upsetting, why would they alert him to the fact that he was being watched?
As Jeremy takes stock of the entanglements that marked his years abroad, he wonders if he has unwittingly committed a crime so serious as to make him an enemy of the state. Moving towards a shattering reassessment of what it means to be free in a time of ever more intrusive surveillance, Jeremy is forced to ask himself whether he is “no one,” as he believes, or a traitor not just to his country but to everyone around him.
Shoot the narrator alreadyI Am No One opens with the narrator, Jeremy O'Keefe, talking about how he's recently returned to New York City after living in Oxford for over a decade. He summarizes why he went to Oxford in the first place (to revive his career after failing to get tenure at Columbia), then segues into how he's currently meeting one of his students at a cafe.
When the young woman never shows up, Jeremy logs into his email account and finds a message in his sent box that he doesn't remember sending. The email is a discussion between Jeremy and the student, with Jeremy asking the student to reschedule their meeting. This is the first odd event of many that indicate Jeremy is being watched.
The plot seemed as if it would become more interesting if I kept reading, but my major problem with this book was the narrator. I've never known a character as full of himself as Jeremy. The narrator bragged endlessly about how intellectual and academic he was, and talked about nothing but himself for the most of the novel. The novel was mainly comprised of his personal opinions on everyone and EVERYTHING.
Nobody cares about your public bathroom insecuritiesThe book was a major snooze fest, and my breaking point was when the narrator began talking about his insecurities with using public restrooms. Apparently, his problems stemmed back to his childhood, and something about bathroom stalls and other people in the bathroom making him uncomfortable when he had to go. I may even have thrown the book on the floor at that point, I don't remember. I'll say this: I couldn't be done and over with this book fast enough.
Another thing that bothered me about the story was the fact that nearly everyone Jeremy came into contact with commented on how he acted British, and how "non-Americanized" he seemed as a result of spending time in Oxford. Seriously, I don't think anyone in real life would have given two shits.
I wish I had more positive things to say about this novel. I was hoping for something far more exciting, and was sorely disappointed. Readers: don't waste your time with this one. Stay far, far away.
FTC Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for this honest review.