Friday, April 29, 2011
Check Out Redcrosse by Brad Berens
I am delighted to offer this little review of Brad's first novel. Me likey likey.
I consider myself fortunate to know Brad, and was thrilled to hear that he had written his first novel. I approached the book with some misgivings, however, because it loosely falls into the scifi genre, which is definitely not my zone. But boy was I happy to read it.
Set in a time in the not too distant future, Brad's story takes place in an America where insurance companies and credit card companies have merged, and cash has been more or less eliminated. The result? Every purchase you make is known to your insurance company, which automatically adjusts your premiums for every donut and full fat milk you consume, and every moment on the treadmill that you skipped today. And we're not talking a nickel here, a dime there. Essentially, a full fat latte and one of those maple walnut scones at Starbucks would more or less raise your rates to levels even a Trump couldn't afford.
But don't think that this is some sort of polemic about private health care. Rather, Brad has used this construct as a surreal backdrop against which a thrilling storyline is juxtaposed.
The characters have a sort of theatrical flavor -- iconic and vivid. He has a gift for dialogue, which for me is about the most important thing the novelist can be good at. And there's a rhythm to the writing that sort of pulls you into the story until you emerge a few hours later wondering what happened to your Saturday morning.
One of my favorite things about the book is how Brad has used bit characters to reinforce the general malaise of the society. Beyond that tight circle of main characters, the rest of them (us?) are like zeks from a Soviet gulag. Or is that a WellPoint gulag?
Add all that to a message about the power of data in a society without strong privacy protections and you have a great first novel. Sci yes, fi, not so much because its imagined future isn't really all that far-fetched. And that makes it a good book for crossing genres. And potentially very pleasing to loads of readers.
Buy early and buy often here.