Internet Privacy and Artificial Intelligences: A Review of Catfishing on CatNet by Naomi Kritzer

Internet Privacy and Artificial Intelligences: A Review of Catfishing on CatNet by Naomi Kritzer

Russell Melby, Contributing Writer

Catfishing on CatNet is a fascinating step into the near future, a story that sets an accurate picture of a modern teen navigating the strange world that is the Internet. It is a coming of age story that is honest to its audience, covering topics like sex and sexual orientation, LGBTQ themes, and the hunt for one’s identity in the world. All of this is interwoven into an interesting science fiction novel.

The story follows Steph, a young teenager who has been moving from town to town for most of her life as she and her mom run from Steph’s crazed father. Steph’s only friends are the ones she had made on the Internet, including the mysterious user named Cheshirecat. Interspersed throughout the story are little excerpts told from the perspective of a sentient artificial intelligence that happens to be obsessed with cat pictures. At her newest high school, Steph meets Rachel and Bryony. Together they get into some mischief that eventually grabs the attention of the local news, and unfortunately, that of her crazed father as well. What follows is a cross-country adventure full of twists and turns that leave the reader’s head spinning.

Based on her previously published short story called “Cat Pictures Please,” Naomi Kritzer expands upon the AI of that story and creates a compelling one around the original premise. “I know you all so well… Sometimes I wish somebody knew me” (11). Kritzer is no stranger to the genre of science fiction, and shows this knowledge throughout her book. For instance, when the A.I. runs into questions of what is and is not ethical for an artificial intelligence like itself, it recalls Isaac Asimov’s famous “Three Laws of Robotics.” On top of referencing one of the most celebrated science fiction writers of all time, Kritzer also makes references to different shows and movies like Doctor Who and Terminator, thus further impressing her audience with her science fiction and pop culture knowledge.

Overall, Naomi Kritzer’s Catfishing on Catnet is a fun read that is thought provoking throughout. There are serious moments between Steph’s friends and herself that feel real, and entertaining moments between Steph and her online friends that are sure to give a chuckle.  As the audience reads how both Steph and the A.I. explore their identities, one is reminded of the human struggles with identity we have all faced, are facing, and will face. It would not be surprising if Kritzer’s story one day gets picked up for a movie or series on a streaming service. The story is more than another science fiction novel, but is an analysis of what makes us human.