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Sewer, Gas & Electric (Public Works Trilogy (Grove Press)) Paperback – 1 Oct 2004

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Product details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Grove/Atlantic; Reprint edition (1 Oct. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802141552
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802141552
  • Product Dimensions: 22.9 x 15.5 x 3.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 781,749 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"Ruff is a protean talent. . . . Very much in the absurdist tradition of Pynchon, Heller, Robbins, and Vonnegut." -The Washington Post "A dizzying rampage . . . will leave readers gasping for breath, mainly from laughter." -The San Francisco Chronicle "A careening riot. . . . Ruff's second novel can only enhance his reputation as a fantasy writer with imagination to burn." -Kirkus Reviews "This exuberantly silly tale will find an audience among admirers of Steve Erickson and David Foster Wallace." -Publishers Weekly

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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Patrick Burnett on 2 Oct. 2003
Format: Hardcover
Applause, applause...
I just finished reading Matt Ruff's "Sewer, Gas and Electric" and I wish he were here before me so I could give him a one-man standing ovation.
I picked this book up in an airport bookstore, having looked at it several times before. This time, I was caught - I could not resist the ghost of Ayn Rand in a hurricane lamp or the mutant great white nicknamed "Meisterbrau". Five hours later I was breathlessly reading the last page.
So what's good about it? The writing is funny without being condescending or slapstick. The philosophy is interesting for those of us who walked in off the streets without having bought the "Atlas Shrugged" ticket. The characters are amazingly fleshed out, and even the villains have redeeming qualities and sympathetic motives.
If you like your humor broad, your books thoughtful and your day weird, this book ought to do the trick.
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Format: Paperback
And it's twice as much fun. Really, every single character in this novel is lovable, well fleshed out, and fits with the rest of the team as a fractal 3-d puzzle. Neal Stephenson recommended it, and I followed, and I couldn't be happier about it.
And there's a plot, too. Ecoguerrillas attack capitalist guerrilla, and battle it out in the high seas, helped out by none other than HMS City of Women. Mutant Carcharodons eat bewildered boy scouts. And there's a conspiracy hidden in Disneyland.
Really, you should read this. Now.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Dan Simpson on 20 Aug. 2008
Format: Paperback
Matt Ruff displays unbelievable imagination and creativity. It makes you wonder, why can't all fiction be written in this way? This book makes everything else seem boring and flat.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 36 reviews
27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
Matt Ruff's Second Novel, A Cyberpunk Classic 22 Aug. 2004
By John Kwok - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Matt Ruff has written three novels in a literary career spanning nearly two decades; all three are rooted somehow in fantasy and should be regarded as fine examples of speculative fiction. "Sewer, Gas Electric: The Public Works Trilogy" is a dazzling, hilarious cyberpunk adventure set in the New York City of 2023. Ruff conjurs up a bizarre, almost dystopian, view of a near-future New York City laced with the political wisdom of Ayn Rand, who returns, resurrected as a major protagonist in this novel. Multi-billionaire Harry Gant strives to build the tallest building in the world while his ex-wife, Joan Fine, is joined by Ayn Rand, as they wage war against homicidal robots and a sinister conspiracy involving Walt Disney and J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI's legendary first director, within the sewers of Manhattan. Ruff's novel is just as hilarious as Neal Stephenson's "Snow Crash", but quite a bit longer. And not only are there apt comparisons to Stephenson's work here, but I can see some influence from the likes of Thomas Pynchon, Bruce Sterling and William Gibson too. Fans of "Snow Crash" and other cyberpunk fiction will not wish to miss this book. Without question, "Sewer, Gas, Electric: The Public Works Trilogy" is Ruff's splendid sophomore outing, and demonstrates to me why he may be the finest writer ever to have graduated from New York City's prestigious Stuyvesant High School.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Brilliant, irreverent, a wild ride 19 July 2004
By jsdunk - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Sewer, Gas and Electic is one of the strangest, most off-the-wall books I've read in years. And I loved almost every bit of it. If this is representive of Matt Ruff's work, he's a brilliant writer.
The only reason that I didn't give the book five stars is that the ending is a bit weak compared to the rest of the book. But, regardless of the ending, the ride was worth it.
The cast of Sewer, Gas and Electric includes a Multi-Billionare businessman, Harry Gant. Harry wants to do the right thing, but doing the right thing is boring -- it just doesn't hold his attention. So, he hired an environmentalist that he'd dated in college, Joan, as an executive in his company to keep him honest. They battle over company decisions and eventually marry and then divorce, all the time where the story occurs.
Other characters include a non-violent eco-terrorist with a submarine decorated with pink polka dots that he docks under the statue of liberty, the crew of the submarine, including a mixed Israeli/Palestinian family, and a few war veterns suffering from serious PTSD. Oh, and we can't forget the VERY evolved, very dangerous shark that has escaped from the NY City sewers. And the Queen of England...
Early on in the book, it isn't clear whether the plot revolves around Gant's quest to build a mile-high tower or the eco-terrorists efforts to stop Gant industries from drilling for oil in the Antarctica. It turns out that its neither.
I really don't want to give anything away. If you like science fiction and you enjoy off the wall plots and don't mind a bit of politically incorrect humor, you'll LOVE this book.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Why have I never heard of this guy? He's genius! 22 Feb. 2006
By Christy Smith - Published on
Format: Paperback
Sewer, Gas & Electric takes place, for the most part, in New York City in 2023 as Matt Ruff explains in his intro: "...just like the present, only more so." Corporations dominate the city skyline with giant glowing advertisements while under them specially trained city workers track and kill the mutant inhabitants of the sewers. Althewhile, keeping these strange animals existence a secrete.

Early in the twenty-aughts a strange plague decimated the black population. This plague not only kills within days but also seemingly consumes the bodies leaving nothing behind. Nothing except strange rumors- tribes of green eyed blacks; while the ghosts of billions of dead negros seem to haunt every part of the Earth.

Ruff mixes the seemingly silly with the mortuary seriousness of a funeral and I have never read anything else that pulls off that conceit to this level of perfection except maybe , Snow Crash (Bantam Spectra Book) by Neal Stephenson. Below are a list of characters, if you feel that they are silly then you are right. If you are not a fan of Kurt Vonnegut or novels such as The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers or the above mentioned Stephenson you may want to look elsewhere. If by chance any of those are your favorites then you may be able to add another novel to that list:

Harry Gant: Eccentric billionaire and manufacturer of the electric negro
Joan Fine: Harry's ex-wife, eco warrior, ``white liberal Catholic'' and former Comptroller of Public Opinion at Gant Industries (main protagonist)
Philo Dufrense: Eco-terrorist and captain of the pink-and-green submarine designed by Howard Hughes the "Yabba-dabba-do". Also, one of the last black people left on the planet after a plague
Meisterbrau: An alternative-environment-adapted Carcharodon carcharias (Aka, a mutated great white shark living in the sewers of New York City).
Ayn Rand: Resurrected and bottled in a hurricane lamp to serve as Joan's annoying assistant. Side note: She gets her objective @ss handed to her in an argument over her theories.
Abbie Hoffman: His personality programmed into the computer of a Volkswagen Beatle.
Kite: A one-armed 181-year-old Civil War veteran(don't ask).

All of whom, and many more are caught up in a vast conspiracy involving Walt Disney, J. Edgar Hoover, and a mob of homicidal robots. Without ruining the story, all I can say is it's a genocidal conspiracy revolving around the Disney Corporation, a supercomputer and a mysterious plague that wiped out every black person on Earth (except those with green eyes). I hope this was helpful and I hope you enjoy the book.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Not for everyone. 23 April 2012
By To Do - Published on
Format: Paperback
If you have a 'Who is John Galt' bumper sticker or are a right leaning republican I would suggest you steer your canary yellow hummer well away from this novel. You won't like it and you'll probably dissuade other readers who may enjoy it. No plot recap here, I'll just list some other books and authors that I enjoy. If you like them you might like this too:

Gone-Away World Harkaway
Blueprints of the Afterlife by Ryan Boudinot
How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe: A Novel (Vintage) by Charles Yu
Neal Stephenson George Saunders Pynchon P.K.Dick Vonnegut
Anything with an out-there premiss and literate writing

Hope this
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Nothing like a good read 9 July 1997
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I tried to describe this book to a friend of mine. It came out something like this: "Well, there's this woman and a lamp with the spirit of Ayn Rand, and her car has Abbie Hoffman's -- well, just read the book." When pressed, I described the first chapter. A young man from the sticks, comes to the big city. He's got a fresh new start, a blank slate of optimism, and gets a job for the New York Sewer System's Zoological Division. One his first day of work, he meets his new teammates, makes friends with them. Gosh this guy is nice! They hand him grenades and gas masks. They go by boat into the sewer with an android on the front sniffing the air. The farm boy, which by now you've come to like a lot, shows his new watch off -- plays 60 different orchestrations. He's playing Bolero for the crew. Suddenly he's eaten by a great white shark. End of chapter, but the begining of a marvelous read. Keep an open mind, remind yourself of the willfull suspension of disbelief, and enjoy the ride
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