I just wanted to give a quick thanks to Maureen H for her recent review of Veneer. I tend to look at my books as always increasing in quality, and yet it’s Veneer, my second book, that continues to outsell the others. I don’t know why that is. From the reviews, it seems people really enjoy the concept of augmented reality, while others like the characters themselves. Some people don’t like the book at all, but who has time to think about that?
Whether or not Maureen’s review is 5 stars or 1 star, I’m just glad someone is still reading a book from 2011. I’m glad they liked it enough to review it. It makes sitting here morning after morning, slogging through Draft 3 of Hybrid Mechanics just a little more bearable.
El Matador has never known a house (or world) without Alexa. By the time he was born, Alexa was almost two years old, and in his first half-year of life, she has been a constant companion, assistant, and soothing voice. Although he can’t interact with Alexa directly, he does hear her voice, and he hears us talking to her, which leads me to wonder how his relationship with this technology will progress.
From the day we brought Matador home, we’ve asked Alexa for help. It was simple stuff at first:
Alexa, turn on the bedroom. (via Hue bulbs)
Alexa, turn on the noise machine. (via Belkin wemo)
Alexa, set the AC to 73 degrees (via Nest thermostat)
Unsurprisingly, Alexa’s real contribution was allowing us to do things hands-free, since our hands are either covered in baby or holding a poop. Wait, that doesn’t sound right.
At six months, we still make use of the home automation, but now we’ve added other skills to the mix:
Alexa, play Caspar Babypants (via Music Unlimited)
Alexa, set the nursery to 20 percent (via Hue bulbs)
Alexa, play Paper Planes by M.I.A. (to time diaper changes)
Alexa, how’s the weather?
Alexa, pause the TV.
For the longest time, I didn’t consider how aware Matador was of Alexa, until one day about a month ago, I asked her to play Run, Baby, Run, which is Matador’s favorite song. As soon as I said the words, a mild look a recognition came over his face, but it was nothing compared to when Alexa said:
Playing Run, Baby, Run by Caspar Babypants…
Just hearing Alexa speaking causes Matador to smile. He recognizes her. He looks in her direction, which is probably confusing, since there’s no face there. Maybe I should put a face there. Huh.
He hears her name so often, I wonder if his first word will be Alexa. Babies can start psuedo-talking at six months… how long before he’s able to talk to her directly?
I love technology, but I love the fact that my son will grow up in a world where he simply has to ask for something, and the audio recording of his voice will be sent to Amazon via the FBI where it will be converted into words, evaluated, and responded to.
As a child, I spent the better half of a day rigging up a pulley system that enabled me to turn on the lights in my room without getting out of bed (because monsters). Matador will simply ask Alexa to do it.
Unlike when you introduced Alexa to your kids, she won’t be a novelty to him. She will have always been there–an integrated part of his life that he will assume is natural.
I’ll be keeping an eye on how this relationship progresses. Alexa is getting smarter every day, but so is Matador. Just yesterday, he learned what a cold is. And his parents learned that babies can’t blow their noses on their own.
Alexa, suck the snot out of my baby’s nose with this tube apparatus.
When it comes to reading reviews, I only ever check my author page at Amazon. How many times a day I check that page for new reviews isn’t relevant. It’s the only place I really want reviews–good and bad–because that’s where people are making the decision to buy, and for some reason, the reviews tend to be… better (?)… than the ones at Goodreads. Maybe there’s something about Goodreads that brings out the vitriol more easily than at Amazon. There are a lot of good reasons to avoid the site altogether, but we don’t have the time today.
Still, every once in a while, I’ll head over there and see if there has been any movement. Typically, there hasn’t, but today I noticed a couple of new reviews for Veneer that I hadn’t seen before. Here is my favorite:
This might be the first time someone has described one of my books as a “novel of ideas,” which I like to think is true for all of them. It’s easy to get over-excited about technology, to want to describe a future so advanced and awesome that you forget to include characters and actual conflict.
I’m not sure if I accomplished what I set out to do with Veneer, but I enjoy the book for its themes, specifically the idea that we don’t need augmented reality to hide our true motives and true selves. Take away the tech and the story could have just as easily happened in our time.
Lastly, for most of the writers I know, writing is a passion that exists outside the scope of sales, reviews, and acclaim. Not that they’re better than that, but the passion is going to be there whether the book is #10 or #100000 on Amazon’s best seller list. So when you get a favorable review on Goodreads or Amazon, take a moment to enjoy the abstract emotional connection you made with another human and then move on, the same way you’d do with a negative review.