Hey, what if a book was like Fight Club (1996) but instead of fights, everyone takes a heroic dose of drugs and plays superhero?
This ambitious, half-cracked debut about Generation Z students struggling with a bent concept of the future in the midst of a slow apocalypse is an ambitious but acidic take on superhero stories and the price of growing up. Our nice-guy protagonist is David Fuffman, a struggling engineering student at Princeton University in a time of “Chronostrictesis,” where time itself seems to be running out as climate change threatens the future of the human species. His life changes dramatically when he meets Mathias Blue, a charismatic, wealthy ne’er-do-well who has set up his lair, “The Egg,” as a kind of off-campus, drug-fueled incubator for social change solutions. “At the Egg, you’re always working on your project, your vision, your Thesis—something only you can do,” says Mathias. David’s Achilles’ heel is Haley Roth, his punky high school drug dealer, on whom he has a brutal crush. Jacked up on a new stimulant called Zeronal laced with DMT, the residents of the Egg go through something of a psychic epiphany with visions of the future. David’s thesis becomes the Unnamed Supersquadron of Vigilantes, a cartoonish attempt at forming a radicalized Justice League, with appropriately disastrous results summed up in a mock Atlantic article, “Dissent in the Age of Flibberflibbergaboobieism.” The novel takes a dark turn in its final third, as secrets are revealed, rivalries erupt, and Mathias’ dark visions of “The End” fuel a brainwashing from which no one in his orbit remains unscathed. Nemett’s recipe for disaster is sound—a dash of Pynchon, a hint of Neal Stephenson, and a nihilistic undertone that belies a semihopeful denouement. While it never quite finds its balance between social satire and youth in rebellion, it’s still a confident, visceral debut that’s worth the ride.
A timely fable of generational angst armed with that old punk ethos: no future.