Mild-mannered American economist who loves fine dining gets kidnapped by terrorists seeking revenge for the evils of the European Union.
After growing up in Roanoke, Virginia, and studying economics at Princeton, protagonist Elliott Gast finds himself in middle age an analyst for the International Business Interest Sector (IBIS). Though Gast claims that he has never done “anything to raise anyone’s hackles,” one night in Brussels he gets attacked, shoved into a car trunk, and transported to a small apartment where his masked kidnappers rail against globalization, the EU, and other alleged manifestations of American hegemony. Here’s the twist: Elliott Gast becomes the world’s first “online hostage”: his imprisonment and subsequent torture are broadcast via the Internet to millions of PC-users across the world, who can vote for him to be tortured further or spared. Second-novelist Fitch (Strategies for Success, 1992) endows Gast with would-be pithy observations on his peculiar plight: “They gave people a window on my prison, and they had flocked to it like voyeurs to a women’s dorm. The advent of the first online hostage seemed as inevitable as it did evil.” When he learns that most of the online crowd has voted for the torture to continue, he notes, “Much had happened in the world to inure it to suffering. Still, I had expected that most people retained a sense of right and wrong.” That is the furthest extent of insight in these pages. It all reads like something Don DeLillo might have written when a sophomore in high school. As the title hints, Gast’s captors have a particularly mean way of torturing him: they take their captive, who loves food, wine, and music, and deprive him of his senses—literally. This initially interesting idea is merely played out to its logical conclusion, without any surprising swerves.
Slight and uninspired.