A hapless writer avoids jail time by signing up for a suspicious life-skills scheme called The Transition.
Karl Temperley spends his days writing fake online reviews for products like the “Smart Fridge” and “a retro-look anti-SAD desk lamp.” He and his wife, vulnerable primary school teacher Genevieve, scrape by thanks to a carefully orchestrated “seventeen-card private Ponzi scheme.” Like plenty of real-life counterparts, Karl finds that his balancing act allows him to enjoy middle-class comfort despite crippling credit card debt. When Karl accidentally commits a crime “somewhere between fraud and tax evasion and incompetence,” The Transition offers an easy alternative to a prison sentence. Smooth, futuristic, and cultlike, The Transition relaunches white-collar criminals and social screw-ups back into society with new homes and stylish careers. Karl and Genevieve are paired with “mentors,” the successful, sexy Stu and Janna , who flirt, cajole, and coerce the couple into a simulacrum of adulthood: reading newspapers, budgeting, and exercise. Before long, the cracks in the scheme begin to show. What at first seemed generous—oversight from Stu and Janna, regulatory AA–like meetings—turns sinister and constrictive. A mysterious message carved onto Karl’s bedframe sends him searching for answers, but will the quest alienate him further from Genevieve or land him in hot water with The Transition? Despite careful initial plotting and plenty of compelling character details, Kennard’s imaginative satire begins to unravel as Karl seeks more information—and the destruction of The Transition. Karl’s quixotic detective work prematurely accelerates the end of the novel, though fans of droll English commentary with a dystopian kick will find much to enjoy in this debut novel from an acclaimed British poet.
A scathing romp about late capitalism’s social ills.