It’s no longer unfeasible to think all the cameras in the world may be analyzed and have their data all saved in one location. Dave Eggers recently explored this fascinating yet scary technology in his recent work The Circle with satisfying results. In that book though, the cameras were being operated by the speed of thought. Enter IDW’s City: The Mind in the Machine, where a program is used to analyze thousands of cameras at once to direct traffic and police in the most efficient way possible. Interesting premise, especially when it gets a superhero angle. So, is it good?
City: The Mind in the Machine #1 (IDW Publishing)
Love that quote!
Writer Eric Garcia has painted himself a rather realistic science fiction story, largely because it’s not too far off from where we’re at. The story is set in San Francisco where there are cameras everywhere, but they can’t capture what a human doesn’t see. Enter computer programmer Ben Fischer, who has developed a program that can align the cameras and direct traffic for the cops, prioritize their efforts and get things done lightning quick. Until it doesn’t. I won’t ruin it here, but Garcia opens the book with an equal parts exciting and funny display of Fischer’s software. Much like in the real world there are always bugs, so it’s not hard to see Fischer’s struggles and relate to him. This might carry over into the next issue further as, spoiler alert, Fischer gets melded with his software so that his brain becomes part of the system.
Of course, on the other hand Garcia does paint Fischer as a bit of a nerd cliche. The guy can’t get a girl because he’s not aware of their advances. He stays up all night coding and doesn’t have much of a life outside of his work. That said, we don’t get too deep into the character, so besides his drive we don’t have much to go on yet.
Now that’s a confusing screen of monitors.
As far as the story questioning the roles of security and technology in our modern society, that remains to be seen. The premise is set up in this issue, the protagonist too, but as far as what it means to have a human being in control of watching everyone all at once isn’t touched upon. As far as this issue is concerned it’s fine and dandy since there are cameras everywhere anyway. It won’t be until the next issue that we see some the moral dilemma.
A computer that directs traffic so the cops can arrive as fast as possible? Sounds like a great idea!
The art by Javi Fernandez does a bangup job keeping things realistic. His layouts change up enough to keep the story flowing and his use of differing styles help separate TV screens from reality. I particularly like how he conveys Fischer’s new view on life in a digital type landscape. It’s not so much “fuzzy” as it’s just the data isn’t coming in completely clear. I do think his inks are a little too dark for the story though. There’s nothing brooding about this premise, not yet anyway, so the darkness conveyed on faces and corners seems a bit much, especially when this issue gets lighthearted.
Ah, the many names of NSA-friendly technology.
Is It Good?
While it takes the entire issue to get to the premise of this series, it does a good job of showing a world we can all see ourselves living in. Next issue will explore what this book is really about though, so as far as getting to the point you might want to skip this issue.
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