Originally published in Latino Book Review magazine at latinobookreview.com
In Samanta Schweblin’s Little Eyes, people around the world are delighted by a new technology bringing anonymous online relationships to a new level. Kentukis are small stuffed animals on wheels, like a robot pet—except behind their little eyes are live-streaming webcams controlled by another person connected to the device. Across languages and regions, kentuki “keepers” and “dwellers” are randomly connected when the device starts up for the first time, and people soon realize that this unique relationship is not easily navigated.
The arrival of kentukis establishes a type of hybrid being that is both gadget and human, intelligent and sentient, but with limited autonomy and ability to communicate. Schweblin’s vignettes of different pairs of kentuki users around the globe explore the full spectrum of demented outcomes when this technology is left unregulated. As kentuki users attempt to establish their ideal dynamic, whether it’s as a voyeur, a tourist in another lifestyle, a companion, a caretaker, or a star of their own reality show, the relationships devolve into obsession and emotional turmoil when issues of privacy and freedom surface.
The novel is an exploration of the artificial boundaries we perceive when we interact virtually. It is an epic thought experiment into how these anonymous actors change peoples’ concept of self-identity. The psychological highs and lows that unfold will bring readers deep into the complex lives of these thrilling devices and the power dynamics that users must negotiate.