Sometimes you just want to read a book with a plot. You know, the kind where people meet each other, go places, fall in love, fight, fall out of love, even die—a good, old-fashioned story. Jordan Castro’s new novel, cheekily titled The Novelist, is emphatically not a good, old-fashioned story. Even calling The Novelist a novel at all is a gag. “I opened my laptop,” the narrator says in the opening lines, and those first four words are the beginning, middle, and end of its narrative. The winking title was the right choice: The Guy Who Opened His Laptop doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.
The Novelist takes place over a single morning, following an unnamed writer as he faffs around on social media while his girlfriend sleeps in their apartment; he occasionally fiddles with novels in progress in Google Docs. That’s it. The first 16 pages describe the protagonist looking at Twitter in minute-by-minute detail, thinking inane thoughts like “my Twitter was horrible—Twitter in general was horrible.” A more annoying premise for a book is, frankly, hard to imagine. And yet, here I am, recommending it. What’s good about a novel with a plotline so insipid it borders on openly hostile? Well, for starters, it’s funny—a rare and cherishable quality in contemporary literature.
It also contains some of the most accurate—and accurately abject—depictions of the experience of using the internet ever captured in fiction. There’s a tangent in The Novelist where the narrator remembers a popular girl from his high school named Ashley. He looks her up on Facebook, clicking through her digital photographs. “Moving quickly, almost frantically, as though trying to complete an urgent task, I navigated back to Ashley’s profile and clicked her header photo: a group of wealthy-looking small women and thick men, all white, wearing dresses and high heels or blazers and partially unbuttoned button-ups, standing crammed together on a roof, a skyline I didn’t recognize behind them. I did, however, recognize some of the people in the picture. At least I thought I did—when I moved the cursor over their faces and bodies, the names that appeared were unrecognizable to me,” the narrator thinks, before daydreaming about what these people he may or may not know may or may not be like. “I imagined arguing about racism with one of the thick men in the picture,” he continues, poring over Ashley’s social milieu like an amateur sleuth. This passage will, I suspect, resonate with anyone who has ever let an hour or two drift by playing detective over corny acquaintances on Facebook, and it establishes Castro as a psychologically precise chronicler of life online.
In a wiggly middle finger to anyone who might mistake The Novelist for autofiction, Castro invents a bizarro version of himself for the narrator to obsess over, a literary semi-celebrity who has become a bogeyman to the lefty internet despite not actually saying anything morally objectionable. This fictional Jordan Castro writes a novel, which then gets sucked into the gears of an online outrage cycle, giving the author an opportunity to riff on how fatuous so-called progressive media can be: “The narrator of one of Jordan Castro’s novels was an amateur bodybuilder, and the novel, due to its being released when the culture was having a ‘reckoning with toxic masculinity,’ was received harshly by many, who described it variously as ‘fascist,’ ‘protofascist,’ ‘fatphobic,’ or, curiously, ‘not what we need right now.’ In a matter of weeks, reviews had been written with titles such as ‘We Read Jordan Castro’s Body Novel, So You Don’t Have To,’ and ‘Jordan Castro’s Fitness Privilege,’ which dealt not so much with the book’s literary qualities as with the effect it might have in reality, due to supposed hidden meaning in some of the sentences.” As with the description of social media wormholes, these acidic tangents about the state of online discourse are stingingly exact.
While the “internet novel” is now its own subgenre, it’s still rare to see these commonplace experiences of being online rendered quite so realistically, with an eye toward the unflattering, humiliating, and true. The finest of the recent “internet novels,” Patricia’s Lockwood’s No One Is Talking About This, captures the sensibility of an extremely online mind, but its fragmented style and playful, absurdist language create an impressionistic portrait—there’s no discussion of, say, typing in a password incorrectly or the impulse to delete Facebook after losing an afternoon to it. The Novelist, in contrast, has a quotidian, bloggy quality. Castro, a poet and the former editor of New York Tyrant Magazine, has alt-lit allegiances (he thanks Tao Lin in the acknowledgments), and excerpts from his protagonist’s matter-of-fact recounting of a morning frittered away on social media wouldn’t have been out of place on Thought Catalog in, say, 2011. (Although it is now often associated with tossed-off personal essays, Thought Catalog was in its early years a frequent publisher of alt-lit voices like Tao Lin, Megan Boyle, and Castro himself.)
People often dismiss writing tightly focused on the self as “navel-gazing,” but the flamboyant, defiant solipsism of Castro’s protagonist isn’t quite that. If anything, “anus-gazing” would be a more appropriate descriptor, considering the narrator is pooping, thinking about poop, or emailing his friend about poop for a remarkably large portion of the novel. (The Novelist must hold some sort of record for longest description of toilet paper wiping techniques in fiction.) All the scatalogical talk blends together with all the screen-time descriptions—sometimes the protagonist is both pooping and browsing Instagram—suggesting a connection: In the end, it’s all the same shit.
One of the most irritating (and slightly painful) parts of joining a Microsoft Teams call could soon be fixed by a new update.
The video conferencing service is a popular choice for many companies, meaning calls with large numbers of participants joining at the same time, and from the same location (such as a meeting room) are a common occurrence.
However, often when multiple people join a meeting in the same room, a feedback loop is created, which causes echo, which in most cases quickly escalates to howling – with Microsoft likening the noise to when a musician holds the mic too close to a loudspeaker.
Fortunately, a new fix is coming for Microsoft Teams users. In its entry in the official Microsoft 365 roadmap (opens in new tab), the new “Ultrasound Howling Detection” describes how it aims to prevent this noise for users on Windows and Mac across the world.
Microsoft says that the update should mean if multiple users on laptops join from the same location, it will share with the user that another Teams Device is detected in their vicinity and is already joined with audio to the current meeting.
If a user has already joined with their audio on, Microsoft Teams will automatically mute the mic and speakers of any new the person who then joins the call, hopefully putting an end to the howling and screeching feedback.
Thankfully, the update is already listed as being in development, with an expected general availability date of March 2023, so users shouldn’t have to wait too long to enjoy.
The new updates are the result of using a machine learning model trained on 30,000 hours of speech samples, and include echo cancellation, better adjusting audio in poor acoustic environments, and allowing users to speak and hear at the same time without interruptions.
Sign up to theTechRadar Pro newsletter to get all the top news, opinion, features and guidance your business needs to succeed!
Mike Moore is Deputy Editor at TechRadar Pro. He has worked as a B2B and B2C tech journalist for nearly a decade, including at one of the UK’s leading national newspapers and fellow Future title ITProPortal, and when he’s not keeping track of all the latest enterprise and workplace trends, can most likely be found watching, following or taking part in some kind of sport.
Shazam! Fury of the Gods lands in theaters on March 17. (Image credit: Warner Bros.)
The final trailer for Shazam! Fury of the Gods has debuted online – and it looks even more charming, funnier, frenetic, and darker than its predecessor.
Shazam’s sequel flick arrives in theaters worldwide on March 17, so it’s about time we were given another look at the forthcoming DC Extended Universe movie (read our DC movies in order guide to find out where it’ll fit in that timeline). Luckily, Warner Bros. has duly obliged. Check it out below:
Okay, there’s some messy CGI and a slightly corny vibe about Shazam 2. But hey, the first problem can be ironed out before the superhero film takes flight, while the latter is part of what makes this movie series spellbinding (see what we did there?).
But we digress – you’re here because you want to find out what you missed from Shazam! Fury of the Gods‘ new trailer. Below, we’ve pointed out six things you might have overlooked. So, what are you waiting for? Shout “Shazam!” and let’s dive in.
1. Who are the Daughters of Atlas?
For a film centered around Shazam, we don’t actually see the titular superhero appear in the official trailer for the first 20 seconds.
Instead, we get another glimpse at Fury of the Gods‘ villains, aka the Daughters of Atlas. The powerful trio comprises the power-hungry Hespera (Helen Millen), dragon-riding Kalypso (Lucy Liu), and Athena (Rachel Zegler), the latter of whom seems particularly torn about how the sisters are going about their business.
So, why are they gunning for Shazam and his superpowered foster siblings? Essentially, when Billy Batson was gifted his abilities by Djimon Hounsou’s wizard in the film film (available now on HBO Max), one of those powers was the Stamina of Atlas. The Daughters of Atlas aren’t too happy about their father’s ability being passed down to a child, so they want to take back what is theirs – and they’ll do it so by any means necessary.
2. Mythological monsters
Shazam’s first DCEU outing featured some horror-imbued creatures in the form of the Seven Deadly Sins. How, then, do you go about topping (or, at the very least) matching what came before? Throw in a bunch of myth-based monsters, of course.
Kalypso’s imposing dragon is the most notable inclusion. It feature prominently throughout the trailer, and we even get an amusing Game of Thrones reference from Shazam – “Hey, Khaleesi!” – in the movie. Hey, Warner Bros. loves to mention its suite of IPs in as many of its films as possible.
But Kalypso’s wyvern isn’t the only fairy-tale-based beast we see. Minotaurs, griffons, and demonic unicorns are just three of the other monsters who’ll turn up in Fury of the Gods. Basically, don’t expect this to be an easy fight for Shazam and company to save the world.
3. You can’t get the staff these days
Saving earth from a new titanic threat will be even harder when Shazam’s adoptive family are stripped of their powers, too. And it seems that the staff, which was wielded by Hounsou’s wizard in the first movie, is the key to giving and taking those abilities away.
In 2019’s Shazam!, the titular hero gave powers to his foster siblings to help him combat the Seven Deadly Sins and Doctor Sivana. They’ve still got those power in Fury of the Gods, too, but they won’t have them for long, based by what the trailer suggests.
The footage shows Freddy Freeman and Mary Bromfield being drained of their abilities by the Daughters of Atlas at various points. The trio are using the wizard’s staff to rob the teens of their powers, so it’s clearly of major importance to the movie’s main players.
Later, we see Shazam wielding it – not before he asks the wizard to take his powers back, mind you, when he becomes convinced he can’t defeat the Daughters of Atlas. Anyway, Shazam’s brandishing of the staff suggests he needs it to boost his own abilities if he’s going to defeat the movie’s antagonists and give his siblings their powers back. Expect the staff to play a vital role in Fury of the Gods‘ plot, then.
4. Prison break
In order to get the wizard’s staff, it seems the Daughters of Atlas go after Hounsou’s magic wielder to obtain it.
We see Hounsou’s character imprisoned at various points, including a shot of Hespera chastising him for giving the power of the gods to Billy, Freddy, and company. “You ripped it from our father’s core,” she tells him, which implies Hounsou’s wizard might not be as mighty and heroic as we were led to believe.
Anyway, Hounsou’s wizard interacts with Shazam later in the trailer, so he clearly escapes captivity. Whether he does so alone, or he enlists Shazam’s help – does that magic-infused dust, which he sends through his prison cell window, have something to do with it? – is unclear. Regardless, we’ll see Hounsou’s character break out at some stage.
5. Is that you, Doctor Strange?
Remember when we said Zegler’s Athena doesn’t seem as keen to destroy earth as her sisters? That’s because, at the 1: 14 mark, we see her use her powers with a uncertain look on her face. You wouldn’t look like that if you were convinced you were doing the right thing, would you?
Based on the fact she’s pushed away by Kalypso (using the staff no less), seconds later, it seems she’ll be swapping sides at some stage.
Interestingly, it seems the wizard’s staff can do more than give or take a person’s powers away. One perceived ability certainly has an air of the Doctor Strange/Marvel-based mystic arts about them. Just look at the Escher-style nature of how the scenery bends and folds in on itself when Athena is pushed back, and when Shazam evades numerous buildings at the 1: 44 mark. We’d be very surprised if DC and Warner Bros. didn’t take a leaf out of the MCU’s book with such an aesthetic.
6. Light the way
Shazam and his fellow superheroes get a costume upgrade in Fury of the Gods. The group’s threads are more streamlined and less plastic-looking this time around, which is pleasing to see.
Fans had been worried, though, that these suits wouldn’t feature one of the first movie’s most underrated (if somewhat tacky) aspects: the glowing lightning bolt on Shazam’s chest. Shazam’s costume in the 2019 movie was manufactured in a way that allowed the bolt to physically light up, avoiding the problem of having to add awkward lighting effects during the post-production phase.
Thankfully, Shazam! Fury of the Gods‘ official trailer confirms that Shazam’s lightning bolt will glow. However, given the sleeker look of the costumes this time around, it appears that the illumination effect has been added in post. Regardless of how it’s been implemented, we’re just glad it’s a feature that’s been retained.
Sign up to get breaking news, reviews, opinion, analysis and more, plus the hottest tech deals!
As TechRadar’s entertainment reporter, Tom covers all of the latest movies, TV shows, and streaming service news that you need to know about. You’ll regularly find him writing about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars, Netflix, Prime Video, Disney Plus, and many other topics of interest.
An NCTJ-accredited journalist, Tom also writes reviews, analytical articles, opinion pieces, and interview-led features on the biggest franchises, actors, directors and other industry leaders. You may see his quotes pop up in the odd official Marvel Studios video, too, such as this Moon Knight TV spot (opens in new tab).
Away from work, Tom can be found checking out the latest video games, immersing himself in his favorite sporting pastime of football, reading the many unread books on his shelf, staying fit at the gym, and petting every dog he comes across.
Got a scoop, interesting story, or an intriguing angle on the latest news in entertainment? Feel free to drop him a line.
Jokes aside about Chrome’s incognito mode, the ability to open a private tab for sensitive browsing is incredibly useful. You can perform searches that you want to keep from affecting your recommendations or appearing in your search history—which applies as much to tax information and medical questions as anything more scintillating.
And now on all phones and tablets, you can protect your incognito tabs from prying eyes by locking them down. A quick tweak to Chrome settings on iOS and Android makes biometric or PIN authentication required to view your private tabs whenever you leave the app and then return. It’s an extra layer of protection for when you forget to close a tab when you’re done—easy to do if you’re constantly hopping between apps. No need to worry about banking info sitting unguarded, for example.
Trying to feature out for yourself is easy. If it’s rolled out to your Android device (or if you’re only now trying it on your iPhone or iPad), just tap on the three dot menu in Chrome, then Privacy and Security. Toggle on Lock Incognito Tabs When You Close Chrome. Now when you switch away from Chrome and then come back, you’ll have to pass an authentication check before you can see and interact with those private tabs again.
For folks who use incognito tabs more on mobile than dedicated apps, this feature is a very welcome addition—and one I hope to see come to desktop computers next. I leave my incognito windows open on PC for long stretches way more often than on a phone or tablet. I haven’t yet met a browser window stuffed with tabs that I didn’t like to keep around. And sometimes I’m reading up on something I don’t want roommates to know about; other times, I have private correspondence I’m working on that I really don’t want to be seen.
I can always lock my PC, but I occasionally forget to slam my fingers on Win + L before dashing off to deal with an overflowing pot or vomiting cat. The best alternative is setting up Dynamic Lock in Windows, but that only works if you move far enough away from your computer to trigger the auto-lock. It unfortunately doesn’t prevent someone also in your kitchen from wandering by your screen and teasing you about your recent discovery of r/illegallysmolcats. Ask me how I know.
Alaina Yee is PCWorld’s resident bargain hunter—when she’s not covering PC building, computer components, mini-PCs, and more, she’s scouring for the best tech deals. Previously her work has appeared in PC Gamer, IGN, Maximum PC, and Official Xbox Magazine. You can find her on Twitter at @morphingball.