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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Is there anyone out there?, 10 Jan. 2009
By 
Catherine Murphy "drcath" (Norway) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Omega Force (Paperback)
This triplet of novellas by Rick Moody, probably best known as the author of "The Ice Storm" hover on the wafer thin boundary between modern dystopia and science fiction. This is a thinly populated field, but one which has yielded a disproportionately rich harvest of talent, ranging from Philip K. Dick to Cormac McCarthy. These tales, told in the first person, create a world seen through the distorting lens of mental breakdown and social dislocation. This is a place of paranoia and conspiracy theories, of memories that might be real, or might be implants, of friends who might be agents, of poison pen letters that you might have sent yourself.

The first story concerns itself with a day, possibly the last day, in the life of James Van Deusen, a former government official of medium rank, now an alcoholic experiencing a spectacular fall off the wagon and consequent decline into dementia. "K&K", the middle story, is "The Office" on acid, where the suggestions box in an insurance firm becomes a thing of menace and the final story - "the Albertine Notes" - traces the attempts of a free lance journalist to discover the origin of a drug which allows users to relive their best memories, in the aftermath of a suitcase bomb which has wiped out Manhatten.

In all three stories, Moody's pancake flat style is a necessary counterfoil to the labyrinthine twists and turns of the stories. This combination of the hum drum with the bizarre is where the strength of the writing lies. It's not a comfy read, but it's stimulating, a bit the way abstract art can be - when meaning hovers just beneath the surface but slides away just before you grasp it.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Trio Of Elegant Technologically-Obsessed Novellas Courtesy of Rick Moody, 9 Aug. 2008
By 
John Kwok (New York, NY USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Omega Force (Paperback)
"The Omega Force" demonstrates that Rick Moody remains at the peak of his literary craft, drawing successfully on post-9/11 paranoia in these three elegant examinations of technologically-obsessed paranoia. Included in this terse volume is the amazing "The Albertine Notes", the last of the three novellas in "The Omega Force", which deserves ample recognition and praise of its own (To which I shall return later.). The dysfunctional surburban families so eloquently depicted by Moody in his classic 1990s novel "The Ice Storm" and the recent short story collection "Demonology" are brilliantly transmutated into three engrossing portraits of three vivid characters each lost in their own peculiar set of technologically-oriented phobias. In short, at least two of these tales should be regarded as among Moody's best efforts in short fiction.

"The Omega Force" is a spellbinding examination of how one person's twisted notions of reality and fiction lead inexorably to an irrational speculation that unexpectedly disrupts the placid existence of his friends and neighbors in a bucolic North Shore Long Island community. Dr. Van Deusen, retired from some secret government agency, conflates fact with the "mind-twisting" fiction gleamed from the pages of the thriller "Omega Force", and his deep-seated fears about the arrival of "dark-complected" emigrants to his community. Convinced that he has uncovered the "truth", Dr. Van Deusen believes he's become a contemporary Paul Revere, fearful of some vague terrorist plot against the Plum Island animal research center, which, if successful, will unleash untold numbers of virulent diseases and plagues upon his community. In his typically riveting, expansive prose, Moody leads us on a personal trek through Dr. Van Deusen's swift descent into madness, in a compelling tale that many will regard as among his best, which concludes on a surprising, most unexpected, note. "The Omega Force" is written in a literary style which I find surprisingly similar to some of cyberpunk science fiction writer Bruce Sterling's work, most recently his post-9/11 novel, "The Zenith Angle".

"K&K", the second and shortest, of the three novellas, follows one Ellie Knight-Cameron, an administrative manager at Kolodny and Kolodny ("K&K"), a small insurance brokerage firm, as she deals with the unexpected arrivals of bizarre messages meant for her in the suggestion box she manages. She undergoes her own descent into madness, trying to cope not only with the arrival of these messages and their meanings, but also becoming obsessed into attempting to discover the identities of their senders. This is a fine tale in its own right, but one which may leave readers a bit unsatisfied, since it does end on a rather abrupt note.

With the last, and longest, of the three novellas, "The Albertine Notes", Rick Moody has boldly gone - with no pun intended, invoking a famous split infinitive whose artistic source some readers of this review may recognize - where few major mainstream fiction writers have gone before, writing what must be regarded as his most remarkable, most impressive work of short fiction to date. Relying once more on his characteristic expansive prose, Rick Moody's "The Albertine Notes" is not just a fine short story, but a fine work of science fiction too, whose vivid imagery easily conjurs up references to Philip K. Dick and J. G. Ballard, and, I would argue too, paying homage to such classic American science fiction writers as Samuel Delany and Octavia Butler in his intelligent depiction of race relations set in a dystopian near-future New York City; or rather, its surviving remnant, following a "suitcase nuke" nuclear detonation which has obliterated most of Manhattan south of 53rd Street, and exterminated four million of its residents. In "The Albertine Notes", Kevin Lee, a young Chinese-American journalist, searches for Albertine drug cartel chieftain Eduardo Cortez and traces the history of the drug "Albertine", an addictive mind-altering drug which appeared suddenly soon after "the blast", which allows its users to remember their past vividly, with ample clarity. Lee wrestles with his addiction and his vivid rememberance of things past, leading to a poignant, closing scene, which seems lifted straight from Greek mythology, as though Lee is Orpheus accompanying Charon, the ferryman, on a one-way trip to the Hades that is the nuclear wasteland of Manhattan. Lee takes us on a nocturnal, nightmarish trek across Brooklyn and Queens which is quite reminiscent of Delany's classic 1960s extraterrestrial urban dystopias like "Dhalgren" and "Nova", meeting prostitutes and bikers resembling those in Butler's novels and, in some respects, William Gibson's early classic cyberpunk novels too. "The Albertine Notes" is a most notable, memorable departure for Moody - and one that was recognized by its publication in a 2004 anthology of that year's best science fiction - which demonstrates his longstanding familiarity with and appreciation of science fiction - but one that is also a logical extension of his interest in dysfunctional suburban families as I have noted previously.
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The Omega Force
The Omega Force by Rick Moody (Paperback - 6 Mar. 2008)
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