Trevor Quirk at Bookforum:
Yet this book could not be summarized as a jeremiad against cyberspace, because it, like most of Smith’s essays and scholarship, rarifies its subject through its author’s talent for synthesizing seemingly disparate ideas and endeavors. In building an alternative model of the internet, Smith transports his reader between discussions of Proust and 1940s hunting gadgetry; the signaling of sperm whales and the metaphysics of methyl jasmonate; Melanesian ritual masks and the Kuiper Belt; Norbert Wiener’s cybernetics and Grand Theft Auto; the nascent industry of “teledildonics” and the rueful poetics of railways; Kant’s epistemology and the pablum of Mark Zuckerberg. In a book that meditates upon networks, webs, and connections, Smith’s astounding range becomes something of a method for revealing the interconnectedness of everything between stars and modems.
Accessing such a mystic vision first requires a deeper accounting of the shittiness of online experience. Smith is a historian of science, and so he appreciates how human understanding of nature is often constrained by era-defining technology.