"Helicopter Parenting in the Age of Drone Warfare" Book Review

Written by Tony Jones

Published by Spooky House Press

Written by Patrick Barb
2022, 60 pages, Fiction
Released on 29th November 2022


Should you be after a novelette to read in a single sitting, then look no further than Helicopter Parenting in the Age of Drone Warfare, which crams much into its brief but captivating sixty pages. This is such an entertaining read, I wished it was longer, as there is certainly scope to spin its high-tech ideas with quirky social commentary on parenting into something meatier. By the time you have nosedived into the crash-landing final sequence of Helicopter Parenting, you will undoubtedly be wondering why the narrator ever had a kid in the first place!

A ‘helicopter parent’ can be described as a mother or father who spends too much time invested in the lives of their kids, often regarding school and success, with their identities often unhealthily overlapping. This story gleefully distorts the traditional meaning by throwing in a technological twang which might result in ‘helicopter parenting’ morphing into ‘drone parenting’. In a near-future United States, surveillance technology has become the hottest trend in high-tech parenting, in which they can monitor their kids' every move from birth, thanks to repurposed military drones and contact lens digital cameras that show life from your child’s perspective (think of the famous film Being John Malkovick and you’re on the right track). For example, a neurotically inclined parent could watch their kid at school all day, moment by tedious moment!

Think about this for a second and imagine how some scenarios might play out…. Teenage high-jinx, drugs, smoking, sexual exploration and every other coming-of-age moment could potentially be viewed at leisure by any nosy parent! To call this world voyeuristic and intrusive would be a massive understatement, but in a world which has surveillance everywhere, perhaps it is not so far-fetched. This new technology also makes parents incredibly lazy, as instead of meeting a kid after school or attending a teacher meeting, they can send a droid in their place and have the necessary conversations remotely. Our main character is not particularly likable, but he is also a product of his time and the sophisticated gadgets on the market.

The action kicks off with Abe Bessander being interviewed by Detective Jensen, who is very interested in the events leading up to the recent eighteenth birthday of his son Zack. The reader quickly realises something unpleasant has gone down, but Patrick Barb keeps the particulars nicely shrouded until well into the story. By the time you get to 70%, you will probably have a good idea where events are heading, but it does finish with a malfunctioning rotor-blade in the engine.

The message of the story is well-intentioned and pretty obvious; it is more important to hug your kids than send them an email, or attending their birthday party in person is significantly more meaningful than programming a drone with an impersonal greeting. Helicopter Parenting is also top-heavy with clever observations about surveillance culture and privacy; you can buy ‘anti-drone’ curtains to ensure nobody can spy on your property and there are other ‘privacy’ laws preventing drones from encroaching upon homes and gardens.

It is hard to argue against the fact that technology makes us lazy and this quirky novelette bangs this point home with a large sledgehammer, with Abe ‘walking’ home (whilst he is still in the office) with Zack and projecting an image of himself via his drone whilst failing to see his son is genuinely struggling and troubled. Even though the tale is seen via Abe’s flashbacks, it is hard not to feel sympathy for his boy.

Helicopter Parenting in the Age of Drone Warfare is a quirky piece of speculative fiction that encourages us to switch off our devices which create invisible barriers, talk to our kids, take our dogs for a walk or invite our better half out for a coffee. And, more importantly, allow our kids to have their secrets!


Overall: 4 Star Rating Cover
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Tony Jones
Staff Reviewer
Such is Tony’s love of books, he has spent well over twenty years working as a school librarian where he is paid to talk to kids about horror. He is a Scotsman in exile who has lived in London for over two decades and credits discovering SE Hinton and Robert Cormier as a 13-year-old for his huge appetite for books. Tony previously spent five years writing The Greatest Scrum That Ever Was, a history book very few people bought. In the past he has written for Horror Novel Reviews and is a regular contributor to The Ginger Nuts of Horror website, often specialising in YA horror.
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