I really wanted to hate Meatspace, an at-times clunkingly metatextual second novel by a social-media obsessed British-Asian writer, about a social media-obsessed British-Asian writer trying to write his second novel.
You can play a few rounds of 21st Century Trope Bingo with the concerns of Shukla’s protagonist, Kitab Balasubramanyam: Facebook ennui, Twitter ennui, timeline obsession; identity theft, secret sex parties, leaked nudes; loneliness in an over-connected age. All of this tends to cloud over a compelling and often hilarious plot, centred on the fallout from the arrival of Kitab’s bungling digital doppelganger at one of his readings.
It’s perhaps the main strength of Shukla’s writing that his characters’ tics – the way they say “hashtag” and “LOL” out loud – come out seeming so realistic, and thus so potentially annoying.
As such, while Meatspace captures a cultural moment with immediate and intimate relish, how you relate to it probably depends on how you relate to the world it inhabits.