In this debut satire, a trendy numerical rating system determines the fates of individuals.
Philip Goodwin is trapped in a loveless marriage. The problem is that he has a great sense of humor, while his wife, Sheila, is “Hypo-Humoresque”—completely without humor. Their plight is worsened when “Data Snatcher” Alex Pragat creates the Pragat Personal Rating system, which—like the Zagat restaurant rating system—appoints numerical values to people. This seems innocent enough, except that “[w]ithin months of the website’s launch, an individual’s PPR came to define for one and all the worth of an individual to society.” Despite Philip’s decent rating, Sheila cheats on him with their marriage counselor. This prompts the middle-aged romantic to search for new love, which he finds in the ravishing Sophie D’Amour. She and Philip realize they’re perfect for each other. But after a few unforgettable dates, Sophie reveals that she’s a “habitual and compulsive trespasser”—a crime for which she’s then arrested. As a result, Philip struggles with loneliness. Sheila, meanwhile, is struck by a lightning bolt of astounding power. The accident hospitalizes her, but she glows (literally) with celebrity allure. Philip tries to retain his privacy, and sanity, as events spin out of control. Debut author Begler is a fabulously skilled comedian capable of winsome asides and ruthlessly ribald jabs. His gonzo narrative skewers many of modern society’s most controversial subjects: privacy rights, health care and class division. His extended commentaries often feature moments of surreal wonder, as with “a low-flying, small black cloud, which to all eyewitnesses, not one exception, resembled a profile of Abraham Lincoln wearing a baseball cap.” Begler’s exuberant cleverness is perhaps most cutting when focused on the rich and famous: “Several celebrities were brave enough to place their heads directly into [Sheila’s] mysterious light,” which grants instant face-lifts. Sometimes, however, Begler throws too many jokes at the wall, and not everything sticks—a small price for admission into this wonderland.
A delicious, scalding cup of satire.