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The candy house
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Library Journal Review
Egan returns to the interlocking narrative structure of A Visit from the Goon Squad, once again embracing the distilled power of short fiction in individual chapters while subtly allowing the distinct, imaginative parts to crescendo into a sterling sum. But where her Pulitzer Prize-winning earlier novel proved to be more conceptual in its story's framework, this work is a more straightforward narrative, albeit rendered wonderfully kaleidoscopic. Egan's latest broadly centers on a technology called "Own Your Unconscious," a very near-future innovation that allows individuals to access every memory they've ever had and upload them to a collective virtual space in exchange for access to others' memories if desired. From here, Egan allows her narrative to gyre outward, tracing connected characters across decades and into the crannies of her richly realized world, made all the more portentous for looking only shades different (and darker) than our present one. But nothing here is about mere showmanship; everything is both imaginative and utilitarian, including its shape-shifting style, which regularly jumps between tenses, distinctive voices, and even forms (an epistolary chapter, a chapter of tweets). The result is something of a mosaic, each meticulously rendered chapter feeling nested within the others rather than simply lashed together. Most impressive, however, is the prescience--never resorting to cheap technophobia or didactic moralizing--with which Egan manages to ask: What does it cost us to taste the Candy House? VERDICT A forceful, wonderfully fragmented novel of a terrifyingly possible future, as intellectually rigorous as it is formally impressive, and yet another monumental work from Egan.--Luke Gorham
Publishers Weekly Review
Egan returns to the fertile territory and characters of A Visit from the Goon Squad with an electrifying and shape-shifting story that one-ups its Pulitzer-winning predecessor. I'll see your PowerPoint chapter, Egan seems to say, and raise you a chapter in tweets, and another in emails and texts. In the near future, a platform called Own Your Unconscious allows memories to be uploaded to the cloud and accessed by anyone. "Counters" seek to ferret out "proxies" that help hide "eluders" who resist merging their "gray grabs" to the collective in order to leave their online personae behind. Not everyone sees this as panacea, and a countermovement called Mondrian arises. Appearances from music producer Bennie Salazar, his mentor Lou Kline, and their lovers and children provide sharp pleasures for Goon Squad fans, and Egan cleverly echoes the ambitious, savvy marketing schemes of real-world tech barons with Own Your Unconscious. It casts its spell on Bennie, whose punk rock days with the Flaming Dildos are long past: "Tongue-in-cheek nostalgia is merely the portal, the candy house, if you will, through which we hope to lure in a new generation and bewitch them," he writes in an email. Twisting through myriad points of view, narrative styles, and divergent voices, Egan proves herself as perceptive an interpreter of the necessity of human connection as ever, and her vision is as irresistible as the tech she describes. This is Egan's best yet. Agent: Binky Urban, ICM Partners. (Apr.)
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