Virtual reality is becoming increasingly popular and sophisticated in the modern-day world, providing people with the opportunity to experience new worlds and enter entirely alternate realities.
But there is a darker side to the ever-improving technology – one which has been candidly portrayed in a set of illustrations that depict a desolate and empty world that has been destroyed by a war between robots and people as a result of humans’ obsession with virtual reality.
Set two decades ago, in 1997, the artwork by Swedish author and illustrator Simon Stålenhag charts the travels of a young girl and her robot toy as she journeys across a horrifying wasteland, which is all that remains of the US.
A VERY different 1997 America: Swedish author and artist Simon Stålenhag imagines a post-apocalyptic U.S. in his new book, The Electric State
A country in ruins: The Electric State tells the story of a girl and her robot traveling west
Thought-provoking: Many of Simon’s illustrations show deserted areas that seem to show this reality’s extreme poverty
Inequality: While many images show poverty, some show highly-technological cities that seem to be thriving
In Stålenhag’s reality, there is no Bill Clinton, no OJ Simpson trial, and no Britney Spears to fill up the minds of Americans. Instead, the world looks as if it’s about to end, having been crushed to ruins by the excesses of a human race overtaken by consumerism.
In this strange America, it’s late 1997 and a girl and her yellow toy robot are travelling west, crossing the ruins of gigantic battle drones that lie all over the countryside along with the discarded trash of a high-tech consumerist society that is now in decline.
As the girl and her robot drive across the country, they see through their window a world that is unraveling and a society that seems ready to finally collapse after a technological meltdown saw a war between battle drones and humans controlled by Virtual Reality.
Simon’s incredibly realistic illustrations let the viewer witness what the girl and her robot are seeing: a post-apocalyptic world filled with battle drones that look like children’s toys slumped over highways, houses on top of each other in what seem like slums, and humans walking around with their Virtual Reality helmets.
A chilling war: In Simon’s version of the U.S. in 1997, battle drones are at war against humans controlled by Virtual Reality helmets.
An unlikely pair: The illustrations of The Electric State show what the girl and her robot (pictured) see as they cross the country
Sitting ducks: The narrative artbook shows the ruins left behind by a society consumed with technology
Not so far from reality? The Swedish artist’s illustrations show humans constantly wearing Virtual Reality helmets
While some of the book’s images show super-technological, thriving cities, others show deserted areas, highlighting the inequalities of this alternative society.
Simon’s other works include Tales From the Loop and Things From the Flood, which also explore complex themes like technology and consumerism.
His latest book is a product of more than 5,000 Kickstarter contributors, who together raised more than $300,000 to see the Swedish artist’s concept become a reality.
The Electric State, which will include 120 pages with words by Simon explaining each photo and, will be released on December, 2017.
An enigma: The images are mostly open to interpretation now, but will be explained in text by Simon when the book is released
A new horizon: While Simon’s stories usually take place in Scandinavian landscapes, this time he took his imagination to the US
A team effort: More than 5,000 Kickstarter contributed to raise more than $300,000 to see Simon’s vision come to fruition
The whole story: The physical version of the book, out on December, 2017, will include text by Simon explaining each photo