Several People Are Typing by Calvin Kasulke

Calvin Kasulke's new novel is a surreal, witty, existential look at the way that apps control our lives

Book Review by Heather McDaid | 09 Sep 2021
  • Several People Are Typing
Book title: Several People Are Typing
Author: Calvin Kasulke

After a year and a half of lockdowns, work apps have slowly infiltrated more people’s lives. But what if you were to infiltrate your work app?

That is the premise of Several People Are Typing – Gerald was working on a spreadsheet about snazzy coats and then suddenly, unexpectedly, is absorbed into Slack. While his colleagues consider his pleas a joke, he’s left to meditate on life and reality with his new friend, slackbot.

Told in fragments of Slack messages, it’s quick to get into. The perceived difficulty in facilitating a plot of highs, lows, tension, and character development in direct messages and Slack channels is navigated deftly – big topics like surveillance are all :dusty-stick: and giphy references, then you’re laughing at an implied screenshot of supposed secrets, or watching romances unfurl in hidden chats. The action element loses pace slightly, but it’s the flow of characters across channels – the work, life, gossip divide – where it shines.

Maybe it’s one for the Slack aficionados and others like us who are glued to these annoying work apps and would love nothing more than to be a sunset GIF and leave responsibility behind. It’s surreal and off the wall; it’s also incredibly witty, deals with existential crises, and makes you hate how recognisable this whole book is in terms of living in apps – minus the (literal, at least) absorption. [excellent.gif] posted using giphy

Exploded view of a mobile phone or similar device; the top layer features the text 'Several People Are Typing' and 'Calvin Kasulke', and a stick image of a figure slumped at a desk; the middle layer depicts a sunset; the back appears to be a motherboard and other components

Hodder Studio, 9 Sep, £12.99