A prospective technology-driven future enriched by an endlessly funny protagonist.

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HENRY PASH AND THE BOTZEC REVOLUTION

In Goorha’s witty debut novel, the world adjusts to a company’s revolutionary computerization of businesses, an efficient method that leaves some people shortchanged.

Henry Pash laments his failure to patent his idea (not immediately revealed to readers). According to the Chief Patent Officer, his idea isn’t ideal since it’s not likely to result in something tangible. Henry later encounters the more successful George Wells, CEO of Wellspring, the company behind Botzec technology. A Botzec is a computer designed to take over the role of business executives, often replacing multiple execs and reducing costs so substantially that employment actually increases. Not surprisingly, the chiefs rebel and respond by launching the Save the Executives Movement. But Henry also witnesses the unexpected fallout of Wellspring, which moves into the education sector and leads to teachers losing their jobs. The company continues to grow into what’s practically a global takeover: purchasing banks, automating traffic, and creating a new legal tender of Well-credits, or W-creds. Moreover, aiding governments in establishing a new regulatory system prevents individuals or groups from identifying Wellspring as a monopoly. Henry fortunately has a bit of good news. His pal Kevin inadvertently discovers that Henry’s algorithm (his idea that the patent office dismissed) generates quality music, including rather poignant lyrics. Though its original purpose was entirely different, it turns out the algorithm might be better at maximizing business productivity than Wellspring. This could precipitate serious competition for Wells’ company, regardless of Henry’s reluctance to monetize his algorithm. Despite much of it resembling a cautionary tale of a technology takeover, Goorha’s story is persistently amusing. This, in large part, is courtesy of Henry’s first-person account. He has a tendency to interrupt people, sometimes with a mere thought or, as in one scene, by munching loudly on a piece of toast. But while he may be an annoyance to other characters, he’s a veritable comic gem as a narrator. In one scene, Henry finds friend Stephanie’s presentation on Botzecs so tedious he counts the bricks in a wall and ducks out for a coffee. He still manages to drop snippets of insight, even when he’s verbose: “You cannot look kindly on a friend who asks you about the make and design of the dagger stuck in your back, when you are telling him how profusely it makes you bleed.” The story, meanwhile, steadily progresses, complemented by a refusal to either laud or rebuke technological advancement. Wellspring, for example, does occasionally provide humans with paid positions, while a few sympathetic characters may be more avaricious than they initially appear. Lighter narrative touches are further improvements: Henry’s older brother, Guy, makes not a single appearance but displays a bold personality via reports of his insults (simply seeing Henry evidently turns his stomach). The ending befits the story’s overall subdued tone; it’s quiet but indelible, a denouement steeped in irony and a weighty notion or two for readers to ponder.

A prospective technology-driven future enriched by an endlessly funny protagonist.

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-84897-966-6

Page Count: 152

Publisher: Olympia Publishers

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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