Here’s a piece of free advice: your old college roommate, now a billionaire in his 50s, invites you and a handful of other college pals, for a device -free weekend at his remote island.
Will, Perry, Beau, Lainie, Stephen and Emma all accept their invitations which are cryptically number 1-6. They are transported to Link Village, billionaire Ryan Cloverhill’s “waterfront office complex,” in Washington state, and from there they take a ferry to Sham Rock, Cloverhill’s island. Apart from the numbered invitations, everything starts out as you would expect. No alarm bells yet.
Will and Perry are a married couple. Perry had a terrible bout of COVID which has left him with permanent scar tissue in his lungs, and Will is an insulin dependent diabetic. Lainie and Beau are a “luxury couple” “self-made celebrity Linkstreamers.” They have built an “online brand” and are extremely successful. Emma, a single parent, has history with Ryan, and Stephen is the dark horse of the group.
Ryan’s house, which he designed, is 6500 sq feet, “constructed of smooth concrete, with entire walls made of windows that capture the stunning 360 degree views.” When the guests arrive, Ryan “a middle-aged megabillionaire social media CEO” insists everyone turn over their devices. It very quickly becomes apparent that Ryan has an itinerary which begins to morph into an agenda. Ryan is the founder and the CEO of the world’s most popular social media platform, and then when he tells his guests to hand over your devices… well you know something is up. Is this about quality time or control? It’s not as though I have a love affair with my phone, but I would be done right there. …
After a first boozy night, the guests wake up to find Ryan gone, and the only way to communicate with him is via a tablet. The catch is that first they have to crack the code to access the tablet. At first it seems like a game (annoying, but still a game) but then Ryan’s agenda becomes clear. All I can say is that if this is how Ryan treats his friends … you don’t want to be on his enemy list.
Sean Doolittle’s Device Free Weekend is a techno-thriller. At first I thought the set-up was classic Agatha Christie but the subtext here is not murder but responsibility: the responsibility we have to ourselves, our friends and yes… the wider social responsibility. The characters never develop, and that is unfortunate as I am a character-driven reader. Also Ryan is annoying, out of touch with reality, and a dickhead. I didn’t buy his late-in-the-day concerns. Still this would make a good film in the right hands.