an imaginary review (9)
In this novel without urgency, there’s a carrot but no stick. Chapter by chapter, a Team of Friends, driven by what they’ll gain when they solve a problem rather than by what they’ll lose if they don’t, solve problems. Once a problem is solved, the next problem is presented and the drive to solve it lies simply in the fact that no solution has yet been found. At the same time this isn’t a puzzle novel. Neither does it seem to be an attempt to write an exciting story without resort to violence, sensationalism, othering, etc. Once all the problems have been solved the novel ends. The same applies to each scene, each sub-plot, each arc of character-relation among the Team of Friends: the momentary problem and its solution drive development at every level. People live alone, but come together easily in cafeterias, offices and public spaces. Their arrangements are liquid. Spirits are usually high, but even where there is physical danger–or loss or heartbreak, or at least the possibility of those things–work on the current problem places it somehow at one or two removes: so that while the Team of Friends may be threatened, threat converts fluidly into an issue of morale which in itself slides away in the corner of the reader’s eye as a new problem captures the attention. Violence is deferred or confronted by proxy. In moments of great doubt there is always an authority to be applied to. It’s a structure which appears to be written out of–and directed back into–a culture or subculture in which, although society is often depicted as collapsing, work and its aspirations remain the only conceivable drives. Whatever its motive or audience, this assumption about the world comes over as a soapiness in the feel of the narration, as if no one is really there and nothing is really being told.