By Cynthia Ayala
The Nether takes place in a future where everyone lives in a virtual world of complete sensory immersion. All you have to do is log in, choose an identity and indulge your every desire. Even the darker desires. A young detective soon discovers a disturbing brand of entertainment, triggering a series of interrogations that lead into the darkest corners of the imagination.
Published on August 7, 2014 by Faber & Faber, this sci-fi crime drama by Jennifer Haley delves into the repercussions that come from online gaming and role-playing and what can happen from the freedom that comes from the lack of moral responsibilities.
This play was remarkable in the darkness that it explores within the pages. It is short, about 80-pages and is a short read, but the meaning behind it is so impactful and this is one play that is sure to raise emotions within the reader.
Let’s start off with the concept of the novel. This takes place in a possibly very near future where reality no longer means anything. Within the novel, people do all of their business online; they go to school online, work online and live online for the most part, coming out for substance only. These characters are submerging themselves into a virtual world that has things that the real world no longer has. This is a place where everyone wants to live because they are also able to live there and do whatever they want without consequence.
Haley explores that by choosing a topic on which everyone agrees is wrong and focusing on it: pedophilia. Everyone around the world has this line of morality and for everyone; including prison inmates agree that pedophilia is wrong. Yet it is that very concept that makes this play so mesmerizing.
In the play, a young detective is trying to find out where the “Hideaway” is, a place they have infiltrated within the Nether, and explores their own dark desires. This theme explores what the repercussions are of living in a world where there are no consequences and why it is so wrong. However, the play also raises the question of “is it okay for society to deny people the opportunity to be who they really are?” That is a hard question to answer and makes the reader think because when there is something so immoral that defines a person, how can society condone it in any fashion? However, if they are exploring their desires in a virtual world and not hurting any innocents in reality is that better or not? Is it a protective space for both the individual and/or society?
That is what make this play so profound about this play and why it is worth a read because it is thoughtful and really does make the reader question everything in life. Moreover, with the world becoming increasingly digital, this play becomes more and more relevant to the reader, towards the understanding of society. Where does the line exist when it comes to role-playing?
This is a play more about society and the moral consciousness versus the identity of an individual and it’s groundbreaking because just like it makes the characters question who they really are and where their moralities lie, it also makes the reader ask themselves the same questions and open their mind.
Much like the play, the characters themselves are so complex in how they carry on, in how they work and develop their thoughts in this crime drama that goes back and forth between an interrogation room and a virtual world. The shifting back and forth adds to complexity between the characters and builds up these complex relationships and identities. It makes the play more complex in regards to identity and sexual orientation. Nothing is black or white in this play and the characters are no different, giving it a lot of real world connectivity for the reader. The Nether raises the question of identity versus society and what is acceptable or not, and this is something the characters of the play are struggling with in the play, it is the essence of what is being explored, albeit, in a very shocking manner.
Incredibly intricate and beautifully written, this play is remarkable in every aspect of the word. (★★★★★ | A+)