STARRED REVIEW
May 2020

Little Eyes

By Samanta Schweblin
In the thought experiment of Samanta Schweblin’s novel, motorized, furry pets—anonymous webcams on wheels—have an unusual effect on society.
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In the thought experiment of Little Eyes, Samanta Schweblin’s latest novel, kentukis are the latest craze. They’re motorized, furry pets, like anonymous webcams on wheels.

An explanation of how kentukis work emerges slowly, mysteriously, encounter by encounter. If you purchase a kentuki, you become its “keeper.” Someone else will purchase the rights to be the “dweller,” operating the toy and observing the keeper’s environment through the kentuki’s lens. Kentukis can be one of a handful of endearing animals, from dragons to moles. The people behind them, too, are a host of believable characters, ranging from preteen boys and teenage girls to retired people. But the kentukis’ too-good-to-be-true cuteness, coupled with the ordinary lives of the people who interact with the toys, foretells horrifying consequences.

Drawn in quotidian elegance, the novel is a string of nonstop, colorful vignettes that follow a handful of international kentuki connections: Peru-Germany, Italy-Norway, Croatia-Brazil, Sierra Leone-Hong Kong, among others. The randomness of the assorted connections breeds unpredictability. Kentukis can move on their own, but only so far, and not on rough terrain. They make noise, not speech. Many connections create ways to communicate, but some communication becomes unwanted, and some develops into co-dependence. Some keepers grow fearful or wary of their kentukis, while some dwellers are set off by their keepers’ strange behavior. The links spread across the globe like a sticky web.

Kentukis raise real-world questions about privacy and increasingly invasive, animated technology. Like Furbies or clowns, kentukis are both adorable and horrible. They’re reminders of basic human needs and vulnerabilities. They’re objects of obsession and companionship, and yet they can also be too close for comfort.

If Schweblin’s sci-fi thriller Fever Dream made sleep difficult, Little Eyes raises the unease quotient. The book seems to watch viewers creepily as it unfolds. 

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Little Eyes

Little Eyes

By Samanta Schweblin
Riverhead
ISBN 9780525541363

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