'Bottoms Up And The Devil Laughs' by Kerry Howley. Howley's account of the national security state and the people entangled in it includes fabulists, truth tellers, combatants, whistle-blowers.

At the center is Reality Winner [ '' her real name, let's move past it now ''], the National Security Agency contractor who was convicted under the Espionage Act for leaking classified information to  The Intercept and sentenced to 63 months in prison.

Howley's exploration of privacy and digital surveillance eventually lands her in the badlands of conspiracy theorists and QAnon.

It's an arc that feels both startling and inevitable ; of course a journey through the deep state would send her down the rabbit hole.

The result is a book that is riveting and darkly funny and, in all senses of the word, unclassifiable.

EXCERPT : In our century we are accustomed to stories that carry us from the physical to the digital.  Once, there was a person in an office you could visit to make travel arrangements.

That person smelled of wood chips, and the brown envelope of tickets that he handed you was rough to the touch.

It's not that the world is no longer physical now that you engage only with pulses to light via plastic and liquefied crystal polarised glass; liquefied crystal is as wholly matter as the travel agent's tie.

It's our sensual world that is radically diminished.

What does a screen smell like?

The World Students Society thanks The New York Times.


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