Book Review: Big Data is Watching You! by Bruce Hartman

Big Data is Watching You! by Bruce Hartman is another wonderful find on Reader’s Favorite. This one also has the dubious distinction of being the first book I have reviewed before it was released. What that means is that my ★★★★☆ rating may not apply to the finished work. Here is my Reader’s Favorite review:

Big Data is Watching You! is a satirical look into our own future through the eyes of one man, Smith, who isn’t aware that there is a future – or a past for that matter. Living under the watchful eye of the Goozle servers, Smith doesn’t have a data unit package high enough to worry about anything more than his job (throwing Celebrities to the lions) and his guppies. That all changes when he meets a Yahoo named Julia. She speaks of things like freedom and privacy as if there is more to them that what is defined by the Terms of Service. When Smith begins to question whether she may be right, he starts doing a bit of research. Customer Service notices. Smith finds out just how right she was when Big Data begins pursuing him for a litany of charges, chief among them: questioning the meaning of ‘the pursuit of happiness’.

Big Data is Watching You! paints a dystopian future that is almost too fantastic to be believed, but too believable to be pure fantasy. I particularly enjoyed Bruce Hartman’s ironic wit and an irreverent tone as he lambasted our culture’s reliance on computers, the internet, and cloud storage by following their evolution to an (hopefully) unreasonable end. From ‘The Great Stench’ to ‘The Next Big Thing’, Hartman playfully intertwined improbable scenarios with events that seem almost a certainty, leaving me to wonder where the impossible ended and the inevitable began. The story was well crafted and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a bit of light-hearted fun. Big Data is Watching You! will make me think twice before performing my next Goozle search!

The story was quite entertaining in a 1984 meets Better Off Ted kind of way. Being fans of both genres, I ate it up. If I had written the review based on the first 2/3 of the book, it would certainly have earned five stars. Unfortunately, in its pre-release state, I took issue with some of the events and plot late in the book that forced me to dock a star.

As I have noted in other Reader’s Favorite review announcements, the review you say on the book page is far from the entire review I provide. That is the 250ish word ‘money shot’ that the author can glean quotations from for their advertising page, but it is generally a lot of fluff without a lot of substance. The real review is in the message to the author with notes on issues with the plot, characters, timelines, etc. In the case of Big Data is Watching You!, those notes were a relatively short (for me) four hundred words. Which is still 50% longer than the actual review. I included notes on which particular issues caused me to dock the star (as well as some editorial issues on typos and the such), fired the review off and forgot about it.

In this case, and for the first time since reviewing books on Reader’s Favorite, the author took the time to write me a personal message after receiving my review. Among other things, he said this of my review,

That review has now been posted and I just wanted to thank you for your perceptive reading of the book and especially for the comments you appended outside of the review. Many of your points were very well taken, and I have addressed them in revisions since I read the original version of your review. . . . As you can appreciate as an indie author, it’s very difficult to get quality feedback on a book before it’s published because you don’t have an editor, agent, etc. You’re groping in the dark, trying to do the best you can, and sometimes you’re dismayed by the criticisms you receive for problems that could easily have been addressed. So I thank you for your helpful comments and your thoughtful review, which showed a level of literary perspicacity which frankly is rare these days, even among the so-called professionals (agents, publishers, etc.).

Having never been contacted by one of the authors, I was pleasantly surprised to hear from him. In this case, I can’t show any of the notes I included to the author due to spoilers, so you’ll have to take his word that they were helpful. I exchanged a few emails with Mr. Hartman and found that he is a genuinely good guy. I’ve found that most in the indie publishing game are like that. It’s almost like a brotherhood.

When considering your next book purchase, why not give Big Data is Watching You! a shot? It was quite entertaining and you’ll feel much better helping an indie author keep fresh tires on his house than helping some mainstream author keep the moat around their castle filled with fresh champagne.