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and if you say goodbye, I'll sock you in the eye

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and if you say goodbye, I'll sock you in the eye

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I just reached the (very abrupt) end of The Girl Who Played with Fire, the sequel to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. It struck me, reading the book, how much the saturation of the cellphone has changed the very foundations of some types of plot twists.

Back in the day, it was much easier to render a character unavailable without them behaving oddly. All they had to do was drive away, or even just walk. In this book, characters rendered themselves unreachable by turning their cellphones off, often so that they can work undisturbed. This was used as a tool to control the timing of breaking particular instances of suspense. I am probably more aware of cellphones nowadays, but I actually noticed it because the "phone was off while working" happened enough to develop the feel of a minor leitmotif to me. There were also a couple of times where this was used for drama, as in, "Hey, we just got a call from Blah Blah, he's trying to reach you. Call him back." Dun dun duuuuuun!

I figure that much purposeful powering down of cellphones was probably somewhat realistic in 2004, when they were less ubiquitous and extra-limb-esque, but it seems implausible at the end of 2010 (though perhaps it might be more likely in Sweden). Regardless, cellphones surely cause a whole lot of labor for authors that simply would not have been necessary 20 years prior. Especially in crime/thrillers, I envision lots of words wasted on describing dropped calls, forgotten phones, network issues, and many other ways of explaining why this or that character was incommunicado without also casting suspicion on them. I wonder if this problematic technological advance might not be enough to drive a genre writer to murder madness period pieces.
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