When I was in college, studying computers, I met an assortment of interesting individuals. From the nerdy programmers to extraverted lads, there was always one guy who liked to shock others with what he could find online.
At the time, the internet was still new to me, and I was a little naïve about the disturbing content that lurked behind the curtain – and I’m not just talking about gambling and pornography.
I’m talking about those forums that built a reputation on being an utterly uncensored free-for-all of abhorrent content; sites like 4chan.
Personally, I always found him a little strange. I mean, anyone who freely browses forums where videos of executions or inappropriate drawings of children are the norm has to be a little off-kilter, right?
I mention this because the main protagonist of Yeager’s Amygdalatropolis is in a similar category. Except here, he’s turned into a complete agoraphobic mess that lives off his parent’s goodwill – and is an extreme case, to say the least.
The book features an introductory essay by Edia Connole, which I tried reading, but it quickly put me off. As soon as she compares the book’s subtleties to that of Georges Bataille, I lost interest.
It’s not to say it’s a poor introduction, but it feels a little high and mighty to compare an independently released book to that of a revered author such as Bataille.
Let me discover these subtle moments myself and not be told about them pre-emptively.
A Faceless Fighter
As the Washington Post (linked above) points out, users to a site like 4chan ‘never need to make an account or pick a username — even a pseudonymous one. That means participants can say and do virtually anything they want with only the most remote threat of accountability. It also means you can’t message other users or establish any kind of social relationship with them, unless they reveal their identity in some way.’
And that’s precisely the premise of Amygdalatropolis.
Each new post made on the forum is under the thread of /1404er, and every user is known as /1404er/. While this appears confusing, it does help with the flow of the messages. The voices behind each are often distinct enough that you can see a bridge in their personalities – or, as usually the case, in their hyperbole.
Being faceless affords the protagonist a universal anonymous mask, hiding behind his screen instead of facing up to his problems. This also includes a phobia of the outdoors (for completely brutal reasons) and an incestual lust for his mother. This is likely because she’s the only human being willing to make an effort to talk with him.
Like most of /1404er/’s life, this develops into a dangerous obsession that sees him luring her into a treacherous trap.
Amygdalatropolis reads like a binary corruption of the human soul. As the protagonist dives deeper into the black hole of the dark web, his grip on reality weakens. His sense of morals dwindle, and his social/political issues grow.
The book says a lot about lost generations who feel misunderstood or underappreciated. We’ve seen these internet armies take action, see Incel groups or 4chan for just a few examples of how dangerous these ideas can be in the real world.
Coincidentally, when /1404er/ takes action, it’s those around him that suffer the most.
Amygdalatropolis is a claustrophobic nightmare that doesn’t let up until the closing pages. It also hits close to home with relentless social media attacks, pranks and all-around trolling of innocent people.
There’s a confident, gutsy performance on Yeager’s part to portray this brutal underworld in all its naked glory. From camgirls and snuff videos to war torture and rape, nothing is left to the imagination, making this book all the more disturbing.
If you’re unaware of the darker side of the internet, this book will be a definite eye-opener. It’ll quickly make you question just how important your online security is. Oh, yes, the front cover is worms bursting out of an organ.