Top positive review
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Gripping, absorbing, shocking.
on 1 December 2005
Perhaps the defining mark of what makes a science fiction classic is how future generation will judge the book. One generation on, this dark, gripping tale has an even greater hold on the reader than it did in 1968. Derided at the time for its “hippy” portrayal of the future power of global corporations and television networks, the future universe in which the mercenary Jack Baron operates his televisual human puppet show is now all too believable. In fact, one almost wonders why nobody has yet started a “Bug” show, whereby audiences can phone in to get some celebrity to phone politicians and business executives and harangue them for their perceived misdemeanours in the name of social justice, public interest and ¬- above all else - the level of ratings where advertising sells for a small fortune.
The novel was also given a lot of stick for being the first science fiction book to use the 'F' word, although by modern standards, the language is quite tame and I can recall reading a wonderful critique of the time, taking the author to task for his 'preposterous' prediction that America would ever have Ronald Reagan as its president ¬- as I said, the world is a totally believable one to a 21st century audience!
This is science fiction, and Norman Spinrad, at their respective bests. The book easily crosses the divide between mainstream novel and science fiction - there are no aliens called Gloop from the planet Glup, just ordinary people falling in love, being haunted by their pasts and buckling to the corruptive lure of power, fame and immortality. The first time I read this book was during my morning commute into London for a job I detested; the week it took me to savour every word was the only time in three years I got out of bed relishing the journey. Totally absorbing, shocking and riveting: a unique tale, and by far Spinrad's greatest work.