James Purdon

Code Read

Book of Numbers

By Joshua Cohen

Harvill Secker 580pp £18.99 order from our bookshop

What was the first great novel of the information age? It’s not a trick question exactly, but the answer depends on what you think ‘information’ is – and when its age began. There’s no reason to think the information age uniquely our own; no reason to assume – like those 20th-century avant-gardes who imagined themselves the first true moderns – that we’re the first ones on the scene. Even in 1853, an editorial in The Times could claim quite confidently that the world had entered ‘an age of information’; a hundred and sixty years later, as the flotsam of our old media sinks into a new wave of digital solvent, we’re still trying to figure out what that might have meant and what it might yet mean.

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