“Don’t Make Me Think”

He knows🤯➡️ the mirror🪞 was a tiger🐯, and he can feel it stalking him now, crouching in the tall grasses⬆️🎋 of the mind🧠👻.
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“Don’t Make Me Think” by Zero H. P. Lovecraft is better than God-Shaped Hole (my review)—if you can ignore the emoji. This is a big “if”. Every few words of the story a group of emoji (two on average) illustrates the meaning of the word it follows. Some are pretty clever visual puns, like “🧠👻” for “mind”, but most aren’t. Every word that has an emoji sequence associated with it seems to always have the same sequence. It looks like the emoji were added with “replace all” after the story was written. There is a thematic justification for it, but, no. If at some point the emoji break the pattern and start whispering secret messages, I removed them too soon to find out. (Update: I have found no secret messages by skimming the emoji through the text.)

If you follow my example (below), you will be able to read a Chinese-themed story of a boy growing up with Neuralink who finds freedom and masculinity in the criminal underworld. But what is freedom? There are Borges references and an excellent Lovecraft pun. The plot borrows heavily from Borges’s gaucho story “The Dead Man”. Zero H. P. Lovecraft’s usual themes make an appearance: the digital world intruding on the real, seduction, addiction, infection, cults, information filtering, neurochemistry metaphors, mirrors, markets, and eating bugs. While, as usual, the work makes plain the author’s politics and scorn for the world it depicts (one of the fake citations is “The Conservative Case for State-Enforced Homosexuality”), it does not turn into a pamphlet the way God-Shaped Hole did. The third-person present-tense narration works surprisingly well once you read it in emoji-free diminished reality. The structure of the story fittingly reflects the main character’s reality breaks. Once again, the story feels too long, but not to the same extent as God-Shaped Hole. In the end, this is the author’s strongest work since “The Gig Economy”. The concepts of digital nootropics and the Uber Micro security system, which I don’t want to spoil by explaining, stood out to me.

Overcoming authorial intent

Wait until the page loads fully and the WordPress script replaces emoji with images (if it does this in your browser). Open the developer tools and paste the following in the console:

Array.from(document.querySelectorAll('p img.emoji')).forEach(x => x.remove());
Array.from(document.querySelectorAll('h5, p')).forEach(x => x.innerText = x.innerText.replace(/\p{Emoji}/gu, ''));

This will remove the emoji from everything but the chapter titles and a few lists.

Real citations