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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.
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on 13 November 2000
This is a great pre-cyberpunk novel. The main character, Jack Barron, is a TV journalist. His nemesis and arch-villain is one rich and ruthless industrial. He enjoys picking on that guy, and playing the part of the chivalrous, 1st amendment fanatic journalist. No problem...
Then, one day, he for a change decides to run with a different story: someone has apparently been ... hmm ... buying young children from poor, very poor families... Over the course of a few weeks, Jack Barron will discover how those events are connected, who is behind all that (you have one guess...) and what is the goal behind them (do you like the idea of dying? Just asking...)
Then, he will be face with the ultimate challenge... What exactly is the price of his silence?
A very good book, much better written than many other Spinrad books (he's a little bit too weird for my taste, at times...) A great read.
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on 11 March 2013
This could only have been written in the 60s and is an eerie prediction of what has come to pass on television. Plus the search for eternal youth which today is as desperate as it was in this book but manifested by surgery and injections. One for the cultural historians.
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on 15 March 2016
Controversial when it came out, this is one of those 1960s books that feels like has been superseded by the passage of time. The titular TV show sees audiences ring in to get Jack Barron to bug someone (corporation, person, whoever), with him especially enjoying going after one CEO. It's a good idea and Spinrad has some fun with it but inevitably it turns into the 'big investigation', filled with dated 1960s references (including some racial slurs), with the mystery at the end of it being fairly easy to work out (in fairness, it was probably more novel at the time). The big problem is that the prose is incredibly turgid and all too often it feels like you're wading through words just so you can hear a few ideas which have mostly entered the contemporary consciousness already. Worth one read if you're interested in science fiction history.
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on 28 November 2015
A classic of SF perhaps not PC enough for today but worth a read if you like old time SF.
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on 4 June 2013
For a brief time you could believe Spinrad was going to be up there with Zelazny & Silverberg, sadly he couldn't maintain the standard - but this is a great book which hardly seems like SF at all now.
Check out 'The Men in the Jungle' and the short story collection 'Last hurrah of the Golden Horde'
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on 13 August 2016
Great book! Haven't read it in years! Shame the carrier destroyed the copy I'm being asked to review.
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