Agents of the Internet Apocalypse by Wayne Gladstone is the meta follow up to Notes from the Internet Apocalypse, Gladstone’s first novel published in 2014, spring-boarding its way out of a cracked.com mini-series called If the Internet Suddenly Disappeared.
In the series so far, Gladstone has built a whimsical post apocalypse in which the internet has disappeared and hordes of the digitally-addicted flock to real-life incarnations of their virtual haunts. People carry on internet jokes in the real world. Fulfill tropes, and are just generally as one-dimensional as their internet avatar makes them seem.
As the engine on Agents turns over, we meet back up with Gladstone as he is released from a psychiatric ward. We learn that much of the events from the first book were a hazy, drunken recollection of writing the first book, but most of the events were fabricated in Gladstone’s mind. His wife, Romya was not dead, she left him. Toby never made his way to New York, and Oz is probably still shaking it in front of a camera somewhere–that is if she even exists.
The one thing that absolutely happened in the first book, however, was the writing of the first book, which becomes the backbone of the story in Agents.
Upon coming to terms with reality, Gladstone still on disability, trucks it to LA to meet with the flesh-and-blood Tobey, and to confront his still very-much-alive ex-wife with whom he is still in love.
Gladstone shares Notes from the Internet Apocalypse with Toby, who takes the manuscript, copies and distributes it. In the real-lives of would be internet users, Gladstone’s Notes goes viral, and a movement to find the internet makes him their figurehead. The novel winds through old characters and new ones, frequently bringing the reader back to wonder how much of Notes had Gladstone imagined, and how much was the cold hard truth.
Like Notes, I didn’t find myself laughing very much. But also like Notes, I found myself pausing and reflecting with some frequency. This is Gladstone’s strength right now as an author, to trick you into thinking when you think you’re supposed to be laughing.
There are 12 chapters in Agents of the Internet Apocalypse, but each of them was about 35 minutes long at my pace. For a novel of this kind, I think there could have been 24 shorter chapters, which would have made it harder for me to put down. The chapter length is a minor critique and I think most won’t even notice.
Agents is a great read for anyone who spends a substantial amount of their time on the internet. Can’t wait for the next installment!