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on 2 November 2013
Pynchon's books generally remind me of rollercoasters: wild, thrilling rides that, ultimately, don't go anywhere. I don't mean this as a criticism: the fun is in the journey, not the plot resolution. This book, however, moves in a more linear fashion, more like a standard thriller.

The usual Pynchon features are here: the large cast of characters, the learning, the humour, the hipster prose, the paranoid speculations, the grumbles about capitalism, the sentences that go on forever... but there are fewer digressions, fewer allusions and fewer songs than in his best works. (Not that having fewer songs is a bad thing.) Much of the story is told in dialogue and pseudo-dialogue: conversations from which we get the highlights and a summary. This makes it a light, fast read.

Of course, it's about a conspiracy. Some dotcom company with a silly name is up to mysterious, evil things. Pleasingly, this time, the conspiracy is not just paranoia; it doesn't just dissolve as the book moves on. However, it's also not of the global, or even cosmic scope of the conspiracies hinted at in Pynchon's other books. The resolution is also undramatic: the Truth Of It All is revealed sometime before the end, in one of those many conversations (probably in a cafe with a humorous name, I forget).

From the start you know we're moving towards the 11th of September, 2001. If anybody can capture such a day in prose I would expect it to be Pynchon. However, he keeps a respectful distance. When the towers do fall, they do so between paragraphs. When they're gone, when the secrets of the plot have been (partially) exposed in an uneventful fashion, the book reveals itself to be about something else, actually. Something to do with family.

Over all, then, it's amusing and it's interesting enough, but it's not up there with Gravity's Rainbow and Mason & Dixon.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 10 February 2014
"Bleeding Edge" by Thomas Pynchon is story about New York City twelve years ago, that begins after the dotcom crisis and goes through to a several months after the 9/11 happened. And if you love New York City than you should read this book, because I can remember only few books that portrayed it so well.

If you have heard about Pynchon works prior to this book than you probably know what you can expect from him. His last book is marvelous piece about urban living in the most beautiful city in the world, that fully transfer reader to the years in which the action takes place, making us a part of the turbulent times through which the city was then passing.

The book's main character is Maxine Tarnow who is specialist in fraud investigation business. Due to the fact that her legal license was revoked and due to her private obligations being mom of two small kids, she cannot afford to be at home doing nothing. She began following her own ethics, feeling no guilt hacking into other people's accounts because she has to feed her family. When she will begin dealing with finances of one computer firm she will find herself mixed up with several unpleasant characters that include drug runner, Russian mobsters and hackers. Unfortunately for her, some of them will soon die...

"Bleeding Edge" is good thriller that is well-written, funny and exciting. And although this is the crime book, there are numerous occasions when reader will be smiling reading it. Partly due to the authenticity because it allows reader to remember everything that was happening those years, or due to the ridiculous situations in which the main character participate.

"Bleeding Edge" is type of book that you can start reading again next minute after you read last page. Not only because of pure joy but also to take chance to find some more pieces of fantastic puzzle author created. And it's not by chance when you know that Pynchon is living legend among authors and readers, who is approaching eighty years, been writing for a half of century and was Nobel Prize nominee.

It's hard to write review for such book because it's not always easy to speak about emotions that Pynchon evokes in reader.

But "Bleeding Edge" is great book, fantastic thriller that I can strongly recommend you for numerous reasons.
Although as many reasons as I can write, after you will read it you will find at least one more...
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Bleeding Edge tells the story of Maxine Tarnow, former-certified-accountant-turned-fraud-investigator. Tarnow is hired by a whole series of recognisably Pynchonesque clients, in a series of possibly connected, mostly-computer-world-related, cases in a swirling Manhattan just prior to September 11 2001. And whilst you won't be surprised to learn that you never really find out 'whodunnit', the book is an EXTREMELY entertaining read.

The book begins with Maxine walking her sons to school and this domestic setting remains a constant throughout the novel - despite the Russian mobsters, dotcom billionaires, political internet activists, drug smugglers, professional smell experts, codewriters, cop fanciers and other freaks who populate the investigator's working life. (I really liked this aspect of the book - I also really loved Vineland for the father-daughter relationship, though I know it's not most people's favourite Pynchon book.)

The text is absolutely full of jokes - one of my favourites is an invented series of very US-style true-life-story films mentioned in passing: Anthony Hopkins starring in the Mikhael Baryshnikov Story, Leo di Caprio in the Fatty Arbuckle story, etc. Lots of the jokes are popular culture-based - personally I feel that a seventy-six-year-old recluse who knows as much about disco as this, let alone ALL of the other gags which require detailed knowledge of the NOW - should be getting five stars just for KNOWING about the present.

And the aspects of the book about computing are fascinating - I'd never really known what the Deep Web was before, and I found a surprising level of interest about code matters! (It actually began to remind me a little of a William Gibson book, in the sense of seeing the present / near future written down in such an enthusiastic, living way.)

The best recommendation I can give is this: people expect Pynchon to be complex, full of jokes that require specialist knowledge, and proffering a confusing cast of characters - this book is all of these things, and yet every evening I looked forward to picking it back up, and sometimes couldn't resist reading a bit in the day as well. It's got a really good, gripping story, and you 'care about the characters', for what that's worth - in other words, 'old-fashioned readability' in a thoroughly modern novel.
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on 23 December 2013
For years, I've kept spare copies of The Crying of Lot 49 in a box to be pressed into the hands of anyone who hasn't read it. If anything, Bleeding Edge is the world of Oedipa Maas forty years on, admittedly on the other side of America. The energy, the savagery and the droll takes on the world of New York between the dot com boom and the financial collapse (with 9/11 in between) make this the definitive version of that era. Yes, there are chronological tricks played with the wicked benefit of hindsight, but such is Pynchon's intellectual power that one can almost imagine that he had predicted everything. This novel is immensely approachable, and those who have been dissuaded in the past by Pynchon's learning (and joy in displaying it) could find themselves surprised. Many lesser writers have been awarded the Nobel Prize - and I'd relish Pynchon not turning up to receive that award were the Swedes to give him his due.
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on 1 January 2014
First it's an amazing read. A bit like my living room fire it takes time - maybe even more than one attempt to get going but when lit - it roars away.

I can't make up my mind whether the story matters more than the interwoven lament for the loss of the original in our lives, the disneyfication of our souls. A characteristic of Pynchon's work is the vast array of characters. No. they don't grow or change as we were taught in school all good characters should. Instead they hold on, hold out and fight their corner to preserve their individuality against forces of blandness and unthinking mediocrity that seek to blunt the edges of originality in our lives. Maybe this is why humour and street culture figure so prominently in all of his work; they are original and often fight a counter cultural guerrilla war against the dull uniformity that we bring down on ourselves or which those in control seek to enforce. After all isn't that what being in control is about. Actually it's also what the story is about as well but in this case the journey may be so much more important than the destination of the narrative arc

This book is fun and life affirming in the most subversive of ways. Enjoy already!
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How do you take your conspiracy theories? If you take them with a Pynchon of salt, you'll enjoy this roller-coaster ride with its proliferation of plots and high-octane prose peppered with New York 'street' talk, Jewish 'shtick' and computer jargon - some of it impenetrable - but lots of it slick, clever and extremely funny.

This is the story of Jewish yummy-mummy Maxine Tarnow, an unlicensed private investigator of financial fraud. Asked to look into the finances of an internet security company owned by billionaire 'entreprenerd' Gabriel Ice, Maxine gets caught up in a complex web of intrigue (is there any other kind?) that may, or may not, have something to do with the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers. It has to be said that this labyrinthine plot does become wearing after a while and the cast of characters is often confusing but the writing, with its fizzing energy reminiscent of Tom Wolfe and Michael Chabon, is stamped through and through with Pynchon's own inimitable style and authentic dialogue. Great lines come fast and furious:

"Do not ever associate with nobody from Jamaica the island, he thinks joint custody means who brought the ganja."

"...something about him, relentless as a car alarm, is screaming Not Acceptable. James Bond has it easy. Brits can always fall back on accents, where you got your tux, a multivolume set of class signifiers. In New York all you have really is shoes."

"We are dangerous women. We have our own crime syndicate...the Muffya."

In a kaleidoscope of far-fetched events and excursions into the Deep Web, Pynchon increasingly blurs the reader's perception of what is real and what is virtual. This is morphing for mavens and we may be forgiven for feeling baffled - even, on occasion, irritated. But it's a rip-roaring read. Phew!
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on 2 February 2014
Firstly, a gripe. I went to buy this from my local branch of Waterstones; support local shops and all that (sorry Amazon!), they'd had one copy that they had sold and weren't expecting anymore for a while. What! The greatest master of English prose of his generation and they had one copy to sell? Is Britain becoming illiterate; or is the only request for here today gone tomorrow star biogs, cookery and gardening books, and JK Rowling of course (if you haven't tried the Casual Vacancy yet don't bother; it's casually vacant.) So I bought it from, you guessed it Amazon! Well done Amazon!!
Anyway, Bleeding Edge. Well as some other the reviews have suggested, this is Pynchon with a coherent (more or less) plot that doesn't go racing off after red herrings for 20 pages. It is funny, in that Pynchonesque way, clever, literate but not always high brow. It is also, brilliantly, about America after 9/11. Although the event occurs roughly 3/4 of the way through the book, and is never directly described (another brilliant Pynchon observation, most of the people in the book who see it, see it through the medium of the television, just like most of the world.), a sinister, lurking, never quite seen or described menace haunts the book, brilliantly given vague shape by the odd, possibly dangerous, parallel world of the deep internet.
If you've read Pynchon before you'll love it. If you've never read Pynchon try it, this is what good writing looks like. No I'll re-phrase that, this is what fantastically good writing looks like. For example, look at the way he brilliantly captures different modes of New York speak and accent, through phrasing and spelling alone. And note how brilliantly he captures the odd, non sequential ways in which conversations actually occurs; because he is so famously reclusive, Pynchon, I would guess, spends time people watching and people listening.
To sum up, Bleeding Edge is bleeding superb, almost certainly the best English language novel published in 2013.
PS. If Pynchon were awarded the Nobel Prize would he turn up to receive it?
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on 28 February 2014
I really liked this one and I've read everything by Pynchon. There's approximately a laugh a paragraph. And often enough it's quality laughing.

Typical Pynchon there's a million characters, or so, but you can already download an app where you can look them up, plus it lets you in on other obscure references.

You will really enjoy this book, and if you were working in IT during the dotcom era, then it's a must buy. Just do it. His research is great - old guy like him can't know that much about IT surely? Think again.

He has that signature plot magic where unexplained stuff just happens, which I feel is dated. Writers now tend to do magic with very clever plotting - not magic couriers. But that would be my only beef. Otherwise - an excellent read - and well done Thomas for pulling this rabbit out of your hat so late in your career. The best, I think, since GR.

It's a BUY.
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on 26 August 2014
I can't remember who or what tickled me into buying Bleeding Edge (for Kindle) but I'd love to go back and interrogate them.

A much-quoted Washington Post reviewer described Thomas Pynchon's novel as "totally gonzo". I'd prefer "totally bonkers" or "totally disappointing". The story rips along and you can basically speed read it at any pace to keep up with the basic narrative, though you may miss some of the rich-in-vernacular conversations. Unfortunately the ending comes when the book runs out of paper - or the Kindle version runs out of screens to swipe - rather than when the story is completed or any of the lose plot threads are tied up. How terribly post-modern, with the emphasis on 'terribly'.

The book is well researched, and there are some lovely concepts like hacking a Furby to give it a wireless connection to spy on confidential conversations from an office shelf. And the page-long rant about IKEA is good stand-up material that would be sure to get a few laughs, but it sits awkwardly in the middle of this 500 page book.

Perhaps it's a lesson in not judging a book by its cover. The technological/Matrix-style cover didn't translate into a technological detective story, but instead remained a mundane and overall disappointing story about a very mixed up fraud investigator who should turn her magnifying glass on her own ethics before being allowed loose on others.
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on 25 November 2013
Pynchon in top form with this New York set novel; an attractive leading character, and many good jokes ; the tone reminded me of his 'crying of Lot 49" . Strongly recommended.
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