In Giuseppe Porcaro’s Disco Sour a major civil war between the different nation states of Europe causes an odyssey of self discovery and battle for democracy.
Europe is broken up, only being held together by The Federation, a group of civil societies and local governments. Bastian Balthazar Bux is the lead chair of The Federation and is doing everything he can to get to a big conference which could either cement his vision of democracy, or have it utterly destroyed.
But, really the story is about Bux getting dumped through an app, having his phone stolen, getting lost in an airport, and doing everything he can to get to the conference to stop a rival from getting his voting app into the world. The voting app would allow everyone to vote with a single swipe, but secretly could replace democracy with something much worse. Bux’s odyssey across the world is plagued by memories of an ex, bad Skype connections, and a deep dive into his psyche to see if he can really save it all.
There is a lot of political theory in this book. Which might come across as dry, but Bux is such an interesting character that you really don’t mind digging into the different concepts posed here. Porcaro does a great job switching between these ideas and the story to give us a full understanding of the world as well as witnessing the rebuilding of a democracy. There are times when it seems like we might be getting too deep into the formation of The Federation, but it always comes back around to Bux and his quest.
Bux’s trip is one hell of a ride. He spends an awful amount of time trapped in an airport, trying desperately to figure out how to get from one side of the terminal to the other, fighting with boarding agents, and dealing with travel agencies. I definitely felt the frustration and helplessness that comes from dealing with that type of bureaucracy. Porcaro captures it all in painful detail, putting you right on the dirty tile floor at 3:00 AM in a corner of the airport.
Even if the world in Disco Sour seems much like ours, Porcaro does build in some uniqueness to make it all his own. For instance, everything has to be copyrighted. It took me a minute to figure out what Porcaro was doing, almost every other word is trademarked. But, once you figure out why they are there, it makes a lot of sense. We also get a bit of Chuck Palahniuk style writing through call outs to brands and labels, as well as quick pokes at styles and technology. In the end you won’t be able to help but like Bux as he takes you along on his ride through this world, sharing in his frustrations, and eventually have you hoping he catches a break.
I found the idea of voting through an app very intriguing. It makes sense in a weird way. People would be able to swipe left or right depending on a policy or candidate. I could see this solving the problem of low voter turnout. But, as we get further into the details of how it works and what the plan is for it, you’ll see the fault and scary reality the app could become. I’m guessing Porcaro, a political geographer, has done a lot of research into this topic. Hence, his revelation at the trouble this could cause. In the end politics should still come down to our thoughts and voice to shape policy.
Disco Sour is a fun trip through the future of politics told through the eyes of one tired blurry eyed man. It is a fast read, mainly because you’ll be hoping Bux gets out of the airport and to the conference in time. I mean seriously, he’s in that airport for like a third of the book. The ideas and concepts threaded throughout the book are interesting and thought-provoking. With Porcaro and Bux as your guide through this political landscape you’ll be able to navigate this odyssey into the future of democracy.
Disco Sour is available to purchase from Unbound you can grab a copy here.
As a political geographer, Giuseppe has always been interested in how the intersection between technology and politics is moving towards uncharted territories in the future. He has recently published a series of scientific articles about how the internet of things and algorithms will change policy making. DISCO SOUR is his first experiment with fiction. it has been inspired by a mission to Chile he had in 2013. Back then, he was Secretary General of the European Youth Forum, the platform of youth organisations advocating for youth rights. And on his way to Santiago, he missed three connecting flights across two continents within the span of 72 hours.
Giuseppe works now as the head of communications for Bruegel, an international think tank specialised in economic policy. During the rest of the time, he DJs, reads, dreams, writes.
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Reviewed by Matthew Brandenburg
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