BEAR V. SHARK by Chris Bachelder


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Satire about a culture so hooked on television and the Internet that two computer-generated animals become a national obsession.

Suppose a bear and a shark were pitted against each other in a tank of water just full enough so that the shark could swim but the bear wouldn’t drown. Which one would win? Well, the answer is to be found out in a staged fight between a virtual bear and a virtual shark in—where else?—Las Vegas. The main character of Bachelder’s debut, a Homer-Simpson–like Mr. Norman, is driving his wife and two children across the country for ringside seats. The reader, going along for the ride, experiences the media frenzy surrounding the fake scenario and also Mr. Norman’s occasional philosophic questioning of it. Norman, who feels empty and lonely, sometimes wonders whether he shouldn’t connect more with his wife and children than he does with the thousands of TV screens and other entertainment distractions that surround him. Approaches by anti-media rebels who plan to blow up the Bear v. Shark stadium serve to heighten his discontent. “Things could be different,” they keep telling him. But Norman is lulled back into brainwashed compliance by a talking neck pillow that whispers into his ear like a kind of electronic antidepressant designed to make him conform. Will he sell his family’s soul and drive all the way to Vegas for this brainless entertainment, or will he see the light? That’s the driving—pun intended—question behind Bachelder’s admittedly weakly plotted tale. But the author uses his enjoyably silly scenario as a springboard to parody spectacles of the kind our entertainment-engorged culture has become enthralled by—Survivor, Temptation Island, Monica and Chandra. With its short vignettes, amusing use of language, cartoonish people, science-fiction bent, and its cynicism, the whole is like a slightly less developed preincarnation of Kurt Vonnegut.

A quirky first novel, fun especially for wordplay fans.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-7432-1946-5
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Scribner
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 2001


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