The Bookshelf

Meatspace by Nikesh Shukla

BY NIKAYLA KIRCHNER, STAFF WRITER

Fourth Estate/Billy Ferguson

“Meatspace,” the second novel by Indian author Nikesh Shukla, is a comedic masterpiece that simultaneously blends contemporary social commentary with raw wit and dry humor. The book is a critique on the duality between the physical world — the meatspace — and the online world. The novel chronicles the narrative of Kitab Balasubramanyam, a recently-brokenhearted failed Indian writer who finds relief from his melancholic reality within the deceptive bliss of the Internet and the company of his brother, Aziz. 

Kitab’s life soon becomes seriously skewed as a man with the exact same name as him arrives, claiming to be the “real Kitab” and begs Kitab for help. Soon after, this stranger begins to strategically steal Kitab’s identity and quickly wreaks havoc on his life. What truly makes the plot unique is not just the absurdity of having an identity stolen, but rather the means in which it is stolen. “Kitab #2” utilizes the original Kitab’s online persona and its overwhelming prominence within Kitab’s life as the medium for his goal, hacking and manipulating the persona Kitab has projected into the cyberspace. 

This forces the original Kitab to pull himself out of his depressive facade of witty tweets and sarcastic Tumblr posts and enter into a world of chaos, as he is forced to deal with not only his namesake, but also his own raw reality of the meatspace altogether.

Most importantly, the novel’s relevance lies within the generation it was born into. In a world where most lives are dominated by the realities they scroll through on Instagram or by the statuses they post on Facebook, “Meatspacecritiques an idea that is universally experienced by the majority of its readers.

Beautifully written, terrifyingly relevant and culturally universal, “Meatspaceis a hilarious social commentary on the dualities between our real and online selves and the profound effects social media can create in both worlds. Kitab’s journey ultimately questions the nature and relevance of physical existence in a world dominated by online personas and false idealism. It’s a satirical and comical exploration into the isolation and loneliness technology can bring us. Through witty dialogue and an incredibly shocking plot twist, “Meatspace forces its readers to truly examine the future of technology and the profound effect it can impose on modern society.

The book portrays a reality that is not too far off from the average person. It’s achingly realistic and overwhelmingly relatable.