Book Review: The Oracle Year by Charles Soule
In The Oracle Year, Will Dando’s prophecies begin with a random dream, filled with hundreds of vivid, detailed predictions.
Will and his friend are reasonable people with genius-level intelligence, so they quickly devise a plan to capitalize on these predictions by releasing a series of them free online, then putting other valuable ones behind a steep paywall.
Public fervor quickly grows to a frenzy as the predictions come to pass and people and the government alike try to find the identity of this new soothsayer.
But The Oracle Year isn’t a book about prophecies. Not really.
The predictions themselves are somewhat limited. Instead, we spend the majority of this book enmeshed in the drama and ethical conundrums the situations presents.
Psychology of power
The psychology of sudden power varies, based on the person and circumstance. It’s not all bad. Oftentimes, they’re more willing to take greater risks and gain higher rewards.
The downside is that those in power could be so willing to take the greater risks, they don’t always think about the fallout for the people beneath them. I would have loved a closer view of a third party in this book who was impacted, including their feelings and the fallout. It would have given us a richer perspective than solely Will’s perpetual hand-wringing.
Data security and personal identifying information
Will is almost squeaky clean in his intentions, constantly vexed over the public reaction and potential danger. But really, he indulges in highly unethical behavior by releasing detailed information (including HIPAA-protected health info) about specific people.
Although he doesn’t publish actual addresses, the public’s laser-like attention guarantees the mere mention of a person is tantamount to doxing them. And he does this several times over. Yet we’re supposed to cheer for the greater good Will promotes and ignore the invasions of privacy. I don’t buy it.
Herd mentality is a consequence Will didn’t anticipate but should have. When people are swept up in a crowd or a movement, thereâ€™s the possibility they could react based on emotions rather than intellect and forethought. They follow the crowd and often engage in things they never would have in normal circumstances.
We see this happen in The Oracle Year and I wonder, if Will and his friend are so smart, why didn’t they account for public psychology in their plans? They thought through digital security, financial gain, and strategies behind releasing the information. But not about the actual people. Seems like a mighty big oversight for smarties like them, especially Will’s sensitive soul.
Overall, though, The Oracle Year is a fun, thrilling look at what could happen. If anything, I would have liked to see even more predictions and the resulting magical wonder.
The Oracle Year by Charles Soule
Published April 2018