Translated from German by Sharmila Cohen
Living in the city is an aspiration for many in this dystopian novel. They remain in the slum-like peripheries, until assigned by the powers that be, usually after successfuly “casting” for some position or apprenticeship. To keep the plebs happy, the elite have created spectacular entertainments. The high-rise dive is one such.
The corridor between the buildings is a one thousand-meter drop … the woman steps to the outermost edge of the flat roof.
You follow the falling body … You see how it rotates around itself with perfect precision, first horizontally, then vertically, twisting into a ball and then stretching out again within fractions of a second. In the next moment you see the ground … She is plummeting towards it, threatening to crash. The hot sun-drenched asphalt is already palpable when her body suddenly shoots up, lifted by the flysuit’s™ flight mode, triggered at the last possible moment, fractions of a second before impact.
Riva Karnovsky is the greatest high-rise diver of them all. Yet one day she quits with no notice. She simply stops. Refuses to train, attend counselling sessions, talk to her partner. This cannot be permitted. Too much is at stake for the corporation concerned. The psychologist, Hitomi Yoshida, is recruited to watch Riva and advise on how best to bring her back to her productive best.
Yoshida’s narrative reveals the complete lack of heart in this society. Performance is everything. Daily routines are prescribed: the amount of exercise, hours of sleep, nutrition. Yoshida must wear a tracker that records everything. It even bleeps when her heart rate rises, as it does more and more frequently as Riva fails to respond to her various strategies. This is not something Yoshida can ignore. This assignment was a promotion and she is proud of her new found status. As patience turns to anxiety to desperation and paranoia (entirely justified by instantaneous and continuous negative assessments from her superior), she slides into unethical, even illegal behaviour. She decides on one final high-risk intervention. If it goes wrong, she loses everything.
It’s clear at this point that Yoshida’s trajectory is itself a high-rise dive. The reasons for Riva’s issues are inadvertently revealed through the story of Yoshida’s own downward spiral, and that occurs despite her being a conformist in a society in which everything is corporatised and trademarked. (flysuit™, Call-A-Coach™, Casting Queens™ schoolgirlgiggle™) She doesn’t even question the existence of the surveillance cameras that allow her to treat Riva remotely, by proxy. Yet as her own mental state is fragmented by the continual pressure to succeed (and quickly, if you please!), memories of her childhood and its buried traumas resurface, resulting in a schism she is unable to bridge. At this point she is in free-fall with no flysuit™ to save her from the approaching crash. Her final decision is chilling and proves the extent of her brainwashing in a society intolerant of the unproductive humanity of its citizens. Very, very disturbing.