Saturday, February 14, 2015

Shovel Ready ( A Spademan Novel) by Adam Sternbergh

Okay – I will admit it. Dreary dystopian settings featuring an anti-hero will always be a weakness for me. This book was an impulse buy. And what an emphatically right decision it has turned out to be.


Having never heard of the book or the author before, it was just the premise that drew me in. A New York devastated by a series of dirty bombs – now shunned by all, the society clearly divided between the extremely rich and the waste-pickers. And the spademan, a garbage-collector turned hitman sifting through the detritus. Picking through the rich – man and woman alike, not asking any questions, pocketing the money and moving on. Spademan – we never really get to know the real name of the protagonist – a sociopath with no qualms about the violence is a known assassin among quiet circles who gets the job done without any fuss. And his latest assignment is to track down and hit a girl.

Unfortunately for him – he is not a killer of unborn children. Finding out that the girl is pregnant is only the first complication. The muck grows steadily deeper as Spademan is unwittingly drawn into a bear-trap; this one set by one of NY’s biggest Godman – one who promises an end to the sufferings of the world in a Heaven paved with gold. Add to that a ruthless killer on his trails. His woes were just starting.

It’s a crackler of a debut from Adam Steinbergh. Blending genres making an immersive thriller that just doesn’t take any prisoners and chugs along relentlessly ahead. Bulldozing any softer feelings. There is nothing feel-good about this work of fiction and we’re left dangling from the deep-end of a chasm that yawns dark and deep – a sociopath’s mind full of dark cynicism with no lights shining on any crevice. The steady form of stream of consciousness takes us into his mad man’s head and while it is no Barbie-Ken castle, we still see remains of the half-decent human being he once was. Flashes of forgotten past, of a NY before the bombs, his hazy good memories of a wife – all of this does nothing to dent the pace of the novel. It’s a runaway steamer. Plus the writing takes time to get used to. Adam employs short staccato sentences, packing them in one after the other, a sort of truism from the Chuck Palahniuk’s camp of writing.

Despite the darkness, it is a gripping entertaining novel that skims across genres. Science Fiction- the future is a place where rich escape the dreary realities by immersing themselves into an artificial second-life called Limnosphere connecting to their fantasies and dreams. Noir/dystopia – bleeding hard edges of a world where violence is frequent and human life worthless. Above all, the novel is a nod to the recent craze to celebrate the anti-hero. A down on his luck psychopath  who takes on the world’s corrupt rich guys. It’s gripping and it's punchy. If you don’t mind the dark and the violence, it’s a fascinating portrayal of the future – written by a talented author announcing himself to the world.

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