Saturday, January 16, 2016

The New World (by Chris Adrian & Eli Horowitz)

It's weird. It's not weird enough.

Someone on Goodreads said the final Tournament of Books slate was "hipster" and I think if any book deserves that label, it's probably The New World. (The most hipstery thing for me was the authors refusing to capitalize acronyms. The main character, a doctor, goes into the or or the icu. Struck me as a pointless affectation.) I gather this was originally presented as an interactive ebook, so reading it on Kindle I may have lost some of the impact. The publishing house is now defunct, so I think we're stuck with the non-interactive version for now.

It has a crackerjack premise -- Jim has had his head cryogenically preserved and wakes up in a distant future, and Jane is the wife he has left behind. By far, the most interesting parts are the future -- will he turn out to be a computer simulation? Is the future in any way real? Can and will Jane join him there? Is he doomed to forget her? Is he willing to? What happens after his "Debut"? Sadly, most of these very interesting questions are never answered.

Beneath the hipster gimmickry, there's a beating heart, which I appreciate -- but ultimately it develops into a conventional love story that I never quite buy. For example [SPOILERS], what evidence is there that Jane loves Jim? She guilts herself into marrying him, then cheats on him, and never particularly seems to like him. Yet we're supposed to be moved by their love that transcends death? I'm not convinced.

This is going to be an interesting book to discuss in the early ToB rounds, but I don't think it will go particularly far -- put it up against A Little Life, say, and it crumbles to dust.

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