Tuesday, September 17, 2013

"This is a definite must-read for anyone who worships the zietgeist or just plain old fine writing." ~ Mark

Thomas Pynchon brings us to New York in the early days of the internet

It is 2001 in New York City, in the lull between the collapse of the dot-com boom and the terrible events of September 11th. Silicon Alley is a ghost town, Web 1.0 is having adolescent angst, Google has yet to IPO, Microsoft is still considered the Evil Empire. There may not be quite as much money around as there was at the height of the tech bubble, but there’s no shortage of swindlers looking to grab a piece of what’s left.

Maxine Tarnow is running a nice little fraud investigation business on the Upper West Side, chasing down different kinds of small-scale con artists. She used to be legally certified but her license got pulled a while back, which has actually turned out to be a blessing because now she can follow her own code of ethics—carry a Beretta, do business with sleazebags, hack into people’s bank accounts—without having too much guilt about any of it. Otherwise, just your average working mom—two boys in elementary school, an off-and-on situation with her sort of semi-ex-husband Horst, life as normal as it ever gets in the neighborhood—till Maxine starts looking into the finances of a computer-security firm and its billionaire geek CEO, whereupon things begin rapidly to jam onto the subway and head downtown. She soon finds herself mixed up with a drug runner in an art deco motorboat, a professional nose obsessed with Hitler’s aftershave, a neoliberal enforcer with footwear issues, plus elements of the Russian mob and various bloggers, hackers, code monkeys, and entrepreneurs, some of whom begin to show up mysteriously dead. Foul play, of course.

With occasional excursions into the DeepWeb and out to Long Island, Thomas Pynchon, channeling his inner Jewish mother, brings us a historical romance of New York in the early days of the internet, not that distant in calendar time but galactically remote from where we’ve journeyed to since.

Will perpetrators be revealed, forget about brought to justice? Will Maxine have to take the handgun out of her purse? Will she and Horst get back together? Will Jerry Seinfeld make an unscheduled guest appearance? Will accounts secular and karmic be brought into balance?

Hey. Who wants to know?

Mark says:
"Thomas Pynchon, in Bleeding Edge, has written what may be his best book, at least his most coherent and well focused. Nowhere has anyone captured the spirit of the cusp of changing time, from the optimistic angst of the dot-com bust, to the disbelief and opportunism of those scrambling for control over the lives of others in the early post 9-11 days.
The lovably gruff Maxine, a fraud investigator, is drawn into more hidden dens of thievery, corruption, and disrepute—private and public—than she ever bargained for when an investigation she didn't even want to do, seems to draw slimy financiers, shady semi-governmental suits, Russian mob, anarchistic media on-liners, gamers, deep computer security engineers, and plenty of well intoxicated characters, into a vortex of 'W-T-F?'.
While she digs through the layers of self-protection by morally-leveraged folks hiding their nefarious dealings, Maxine finds quiet eddies where she examines her own life and the friends, family, and personal relations that have slipped into the background as her pursuit of business has made a career of itself. Just what is important? Who? And is it too late to undo damage never intended?
Her investigation puts her in more sets of crosshairs than a multi-player on-line shooter game, and she finds she may loose everything important to her, just when she is getting it all sorted out. She doubles-down and reaches out for help, sometimes with people she had thought her enemies, as the whole tsunami accelerates when the towers come down.
The mix of technical information and description, is at times as spare and masterful as Gibson, the characters' emotional lives are deftly handled, the details seem effortless and the intensity is cinematic when it needs to be. This is a definite must-read for anyone who worships the zietgeist or just plain old fine writing."

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