The Candy House

A Novel

334 pages

English language

Published April 9, 2022 by Scribner.

ISBN:
978-1-4767-1676-3
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4 stars (18 reviews)

The Candy House opens with the staggeringly brilliant Bix Bouton, whose company, Mandala, is so successful that he is “one of those tech demi-gods with whom we’re all on a first name basis.” Bix is 40, with four kids, restless, desperate for a new idea, when he stumbles into a conversation group, mostly Columbia professors, one of whom is experimenting with downloading or “externalizing” memory. It’s 2010. Within a decade, Bix’s new technology, “Own Your Unconscious”—that allows you access to every memory you’ve ever had, and to share every memory in exchange for access to the memories of others—has seduced multitudes. But not everyone.

In spellbinding interlocking narratives, Egan spins out the consequences of Own Your Unconscious through the lives of multiple characters whose paths intersect over several decades. Intellectually dazzling, The Candy House is also extraordinarily moving, a testament to the tenacity and transcendence of human longing for real …

6 editions

reviewed The Candy House by Jennifer Egan

back and forth

No rating

As I read this, I couldn't decide whether I was willing to go along with the conceit or not. At moments I was hooked, at others I was almost annoyed. But eventually, I saw the book as a performance of a network of people and stories. In a way, it reminded me of what Bruno Latour says about writing (I think in Reassembling the Social, but I'm not 100% sure of that). I'm paraphrasing, but he suggests that a fair and accurate account of a network requires writing that is sort of like a network too, writing that resists the desire to fall into narrative. This book does some of that kind of work.

I also didn't realize it was a follow up/sequel of sorts, though you didn't need to read the first one to understand this one. I might go back to A Visit from The Goon Squad at …

Magical realism meets surveillance capitalism

4 stars

Jennifer Egan’s “The Candy House” straddles the line between magical realism and sci-fi—and I am here for it.

Anthropologist Miranda Kane’s 1995 book, “Patterns of Affinity” lays bare exacting formulas for predicting human behavior. She could never have anticipated Bix Bouton seizing on these ideas to expand his surveillance capitalism juggernaut: “Mandala” (the novel’s answer to Meta/Facebook).

Later, in 2010, while fretting about the future of Mandala, Bouton infiltrates a college discussion group of Kline’s work. There he learns of experiments to externalize people’s memories into machines.

Bix uses the research as the inspiration for “Own Your Unconscious”—a way to relive your past (including everything you’d forgotten).

Later, Mandala introduces “The Collective”—a pool of memories users can tap at the cost of releasing their memories for others. The collective is a database searchable by geolocation and time—enter the date and place and watch events unfold through the eyes of any …

reviewed The Candy House by Jennifer Egan

Didn't like it

3 stars

I liked the concept of uploading your memories to the internet, and having corporate incentives to share them. . However, this entire book felt like an introduction. New characters and new events, often in different time periods every chapter. They did become somewhat intertwined, but not in a way where I felt it all came together. At the end I didn't feel like I had any real sense of any of the characters or why they did the things they did. I also didn't find that it really stimulated my thinking at all about what a world where many uploaded their memories to the internet for all to see would be like. It was all just too disconnected. I have not read the first book, A Visit from the Goon Squad, where many of these characters were first introduced. Perhaps that would have helped, but I wouldn't recommend it as …

good writing can save a lot

4 stars

A wild collection of short stories rubbing shoulders with each other and The Goon Squad (which I barely remember, but enjoyed) in a near sci-fi future. Tightrope between failing to cohere, falling from believability or originality, and engrossing oddities of character after character, I liked too many of these to complain.

Review of 'The Candy House' on 'Goodreads'

3 stars

All our lives, we had needed our mother; now our father needed us.

I think I enjoyed The Candy House, and while I searched for reasons for say otherwise I only came back with comments that would support the book more. The Glass House was a unique and enjoyable read that sits at a comfortable 3/5.

I started The Candy House with no context. Perhaps the cover stood out or it was listed on a Goodreads list, whatever reason, it was added to my queue and I did no research before I dove in.

A gain is a loss when it comes to technology

The story is written from different perspectives and for half the book I was waiting for something to happen when the story would click. The only constant in The Glass House is the consequences, good and bad, of technology. Some characters portray this world with …

Review of 'The Candy House' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

As A Visit to the Goon Squad illustrated, our culture changes constantly, and it doesn’t take long for anyone to look around and think–how did we get here? Computers in our pockets are now a given. Social media has made it possible to communicate with millions of people, all at once, in seconds. We can now look up any information that comes to mind–except our own memories. But wait, what if a technology existed that allowed us to transfer all the memories in our minds to a device that showed us our lives, like a movie? The price? We’d have to share our memories to a collective. One more invasion of privacy.

Bix Bouton, of Mandala fame, has a new idea: Own Your Unconscious ™ . Many people will find this fascinating, then tempting. . Eventually, most people will happily accept this and their memories will become part of the …

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