Thugbook by C.J. West

By Ekta R. Garg

June 26, 2012

Rated: Borrow it

Offering a fascinating spin on Facebook, C.J. West’s digital short Thugbook provides readers with a novel concept.  Two college friends have started a social networking site that arms regular citizens with the ability to take upload pictures of crimes and criminals to the Thugbook website.  When things begin to go awry and crime actually gets out of hand (the opposite intention of the site,) the site’s founders begin scrambling to cover their bases.  Author West provides readers with an interesting premise in this story that ends much too quickly.

Friends Blaine Stevens and Jones are the brains behind Thugbook, a social networking site that has put power in the hands of its users—literally.  After giving away cameras, the Thugbook execs have instructed their users (called “photectors,” a cross between “photographers” and “protectors”) to take pictures of known criminals and even crimes in progress.  The photectors then upload the photos on Thugbook, the networking site, with the hope that if pictures of the criminals go public then the rate of crime will decrease.

While the theory sounds noble, the reality is anything but.  Citizens are shooting photos and uploading them faster than the Thugbook servers can process, which solves the crime problem in the short term, but the two main gangs in the town of New Bedford—the Reds and the Blues—seem to be gaining ground.  Suddenly someone seems to have a certain agenda against particular gang members, and evidence begins cropping up to indicate that someone is intentionally targeting them.

Members of the upper echelon at Thugbook try to offer their site and its merits to local law enforcement, but the cops remain skeptical.  Meanwhile a paralegal playing double agent tries to infiltrate the company by getting a job as a photo processor.  And all the while Blaine Stevens, head of the site that keeps growing, seems to relish the company’s outcomes, deaths and all.

Author West gives readers a fun twist on the popularity of sites like Facebook by offering a hypothesis in the form of fiction of just what can happen if social networking were directed in a specific direction.  The possibilities and their consequences certainly make for fun and even compelling reading.  Unfortunately West doesn’t allow his story to develop at an even pace, racing through it instead.

The result gives readers what feels like a hurried plot, not allowing them to form any bonds with any of the characters or their motives.  When readers finally find out exactly why Blaine started Thugbook, they may have to blink a few times just to catch up to the rest of the story.  This technique only hampers West’s plot and aim, which truly is a shame because Thugbook could have turned out to be a fascinating novel if the author had chosen to pursue it as such.  The story could even have worked as a novella, which would have given the plot time to simmer and the characters time to develop.

For readers interested in what the evil alter ego of Facebook might look like, I recommend Thugbook.  But readers wanting a deeper story offering fully-developed characters and a plot with more than a surface layer might think twice about reading this digital short.

***

What the ratings mean:

Bookmark it!–Read this book and then buy it and add it to to your own collection.  It’s definitely worth it!

Borrow it–Check this one out from the library; it’s a worthy read, but think twice before spending your hard-earned money on it.

Bypass it–Free time is precious.  Don’t spend it on this book!

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