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HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERon 19 December 2013
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Shovel Ready is a savage, stylish stab at a convincingly chilling near-future. It's blunt and brutal, written very much in the manner of the modern American novel. The result is a slim but gripping book, a plot in constant movement set in a starkly possible dystopia which feels as if it could be just around the corner.

In this tomorrow, New York has been hollowed out by fear and economic collapse following terrorist attacks. It's an underworld, populated by parasites, the helpless and the hopeless. Anyone who can afford the fees jacks into a virtual world where online evangelists sell the perfect paradise. We hitch up with the nihilistic Spademan and are dragged through the gutters with him.
Don't expect much in the way of detailed description or extended explanation. The main characters are deftly but sparsely drawn, their histories revealed only when the action pauses. Brutalised by events and emotional trauma, Spademan views himself simply as a bullet and his victims' deaths as inevitable. What could be a predictable storyline - he can't bring himself to kill a young woman on the run and instead winds up as her protector - sidesteps the clichés of traditional gumshoe noir and subverts expectations with violent intensity and a couple of nifty plot twists that caught me by surprise.

Shovel Ready is a short slice of vivid realisation; easy to read, in the main, and delivered with the assurance of an accomplished author. However, the stylised use of speech as standard text does make it hard to tell the difference between narration and speech at times. So instead of adding to the atmosphere this stunt-storytelling device actually detracted from the action while I puzzled out whether someone was speaking at the time...

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VINE VOICEon 17 February 2015
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I'm not in the least surprised that the film rights for this have been optioned by Warner Bros, it's such a great story and will make a brilliant movie. I can't wait to see it (I'm led to believe that Denzel Washington in is line for the lead). I can't really pin down the genre, it's a not quite Dystopian Futuristic Thriller Noir. Kind of.

Regardless of which pigeon hole it slots into, I just devoured it. It's SO good. Exactly the sort of story I lap up. It's like a loose mash up of the movies Leon and Inception, mixed in with bits of The Matrix and a good dollop of Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. Having said that, it still manages be different enough to be new and interesting.

I wasn't even half way through this but based on what I'd read up to that point I rushed off to buy the second book Near Enemy (Spademan series Book 2).

The writing style is a little unusual and is similar to McCarthy's The Road but it fits perfectly with the subject matter and it's very well done. It's so well written and had I not known in advance that this was a debut novel I'd never have guessed. Not in a million years. This fellow can write! Believable and interesting characters, great dialogue and brilliant plot. I just loved it all.

I've got a pile of other books waiting to be read but I'm heading straight into the next one of this as I'm not ready to let Spademan's world go yet. I'm so glad there's another book in the series I can get stuck into.

Can't recommend this enough. It's gory, grisly and very dark in places but it's not without humour and I'll definitely go back and read this at some point.

Brilliant story!
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 15 January 2014
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I thoroughly enjoyed the first half of this book. New York has been devastated by a dirty bomb and is now just a bleak and burned-out shell where violence reigns on the streets and the poor try to get by as best they can. The rich live in secure isolation protected by bodyguards and hi-tech security systems. To avoid the utter desolation of reality, the rich escape into hi-tech pods where their own personal dreams and desires await them.

Spademan used to be a garbage collector before he lost his wife and is now a hit man. He will take out anyone - bar children - but he won't engage with the client other than to get the name of the victim and collect payment in advance. The story centres around a particular hit that Spademan has accepted - the daughter of the most powerful evangelist to emerge following the disaster that is New York.

The plot is racy and the terse style of writing reminds me a little of Cormac McCarthy's `No Country for Old Men'. However, half-way through the book the plot seemed to change from an exciting thriller into some kind of sex-hyped, sci-fi romp which, to be honest, bored me with all the whys and wherefores.
This is a good debut novel and I thoroughly enjoyed the first half and I wouldn't be at all surprised to hear that a film studio had bought the rights to it.
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on 23 May 2014
Not my usual read in that I’m not a fan of books set in the future, albeit a future just around the corner, with enough of today’s realities present that it wasn’t a totally alien landscape. I just don’t like, get, understand or enjoy sci-fi-type fiction full of gizmos and gadgets and techno-doodahs that I can’t visualise – though to be fair on this occasion there is not a lot of that present. (I’m just having a bit of a rant.) Why read it then? Well I do have a soft spot for hitmen and the premise would indicate that there’s a guy doing a lot of hitting here and in a noir-ish fashion.

Well it was okay in a time filling, not the worst thing I’ve ever encountered way. It started brightly and I wanted to read on and see how things played out and at no point did I feel like quitting. I just wasn’t emotionally invested in the outcome.

Our hitman was a former garbageman, like his father and in some respects he’s stayed true to his vocation, only the garbage now is of the human kind. New York – post dirty bomb, he’s lost his wife, he has no children and few friends. I couldn’t feel his motivation for his work. He’s hired for a job that he takes, until he realises that it conflicts with his rules, which then sets him at odds with his employer. The story then continues until we have a resolution.

Dynamite? No
Gritty? Sort of
Violent? In places
Funny? Not especially
Riveting? Not particularly
Tender? Didn’t think so
Brilliant? Nah

Verdict 2 or a 3, 2 or a 3, 2 or a 3? Hmm........3 on balance.

A bit of credit due for trying something a little bit out of the box, and like I said I didn’t ever feel like throwing in the towel and quitting. Hopefully others enjoy this one a lot more than me.

Another Net Galley book.
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on 22 January 2015
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
A future New York which has been devastated by a dirty bomb, a world where the divide between rich and poor is increasingly polarised – and an assassin narrator with a twisted sense of morality of his own.

What really makes this book is the short, sharp, dry and laconic style: no speech marks, pared to the bone narrative, and a twisting narrative that is a version of 1940s noir brought into the future. Instead of a gum-shoe detective we have an assassin who’s not quite as hard-boiled as he likes to make out especially when faced with a target who is just 18 – and pregnant.

There are places where the brevity and hard-nosed deadpan style start to feel overdone, and a change of pace would have made the edginess stand out more – all the same, this is a pacy, violent, exhilarating read.
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on 11 July 2015
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A highly stylish [and stylised] near-future dystopian novel that snaps away at you incessantly so that any slip in attention is simply just not allowed. with those who can afford it escaping into a world of virtuality, Spademan, our violent anti-hero hitman, has to very much deal with hard cold reality. The result is a hard-boiled thriller with dark humour, brutality and little in the way of conventional justice that the author pulls off with a confident swagger and a tale that grips, shocks but never fails to entertain.
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on 6 August 2016
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I did like this book, admittedly it's not my normal taste but I enjoyed it. It's somewhat brutal, it's somewhat blunt. If you're looking for a fluffy book, this is not it. There are disturbing scenes and some pretty foul images left in my mind but it's definitely worth a read.
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#1 HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERon 1 February 2015
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This is a good, readable novel. It promises to be excellent in the first half, but works less well later on.

Set in a near-ish future, the story itself is, at heart, a pretty well-worn idea of a cynical hit-man who is hired to kill a young woman, finds he has some scruples and feelings and ends up protecting her and tackling a Sinister Conspiracy Of The Powerful. However, the book is lifted well above the ordinary by the excellent narrative voice which is sharp, pacy and very engaging.

Adam Sternbergh also paints a convincing picture of a dystopian, New York following some devastating attacks on the city and creates a very good (if not entirely original) idea of a virtual reality into which people retreat more and more. This doesn't dominate the story, but provides both interesting context and important plot elements. I found the character of the hit-man narrator convincing and surprisingly engaging, and other characters are well drawn, if a little familiar form similar books, and all this kept me very engrossed for at least the first half of the book. However, I thought the plot wasn't well structured enough to really hold me once the initial impact of style and setting wore off. It became a bit disjointed and less convincing and the rather obvious set-up for the next in the series rang a little false.

Nevertheless, I can recommend this as an exciting and enjoyable novel and I will certainly read the next one. It's not a brilliant book but it's a good one and well worth reading.
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on 13 January 2014
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Dystopian sci-fi about a hit-man in future (or alternative present?) New York, where it seems that there's plenty to do for a hard-working, skilled assassin. Asked to kill off an evangelist's daughter, Spademan instead finds her a kindred spirit (and handy with a knife to boot) ending up in a reverse mission to go after the top people at the church.

There's a great wry humour to the scene setting, for example: "Ducks, plucked and bashful, hung on hooks in a windowpane, like a warning to other outlaw ducks", or how about this: "She opens a beer for her, then one for me, puts them on the coffee table between us like we're playing chess with only two pieces."

I should warn that there is some graphic violence, but it is a compelling tale and hard to put down; a rather excellent first novel.
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on 29 January 2014
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Spademan used to be a garbage man, but now he is a hired killer indiscriminately killing those he is paid for, as long as they are over 18. He is not the only thing to have changed; whilst he has gone from bin man to assassin, New York has become a broken mess after a dirty bomb went off. Those that remain often retreat into the relative bliss of virtual reality, making it that much easier for Spademan to sneak into their house and finish them off.

‘Shovel Ready’ is a bleak novel that mixes hardboiled crime noir with dystopian science fiction. As a world it works brilliantly. Adam Sternbergh is able to create a New York that has descended into a bleak hole, so much so that the rest of America has abandoned it. The other ideas in the book also work; people choosing to opt into a ‘Matrix’ style unreality and a new religious leader plying on the weak. There are many things to praise about the book, but then there are a few things that are not so good.

Sternbergh has an impressive vision in the book and he paints a vibrant world in the first half, therefore it is disappointing that the book becomes disjointed towards the end and becomes slightly confused. Also, Spademan is not a nice character. Sternbergh tries to soften his edges slightly, but when it comes down to it, he is a cold psychopath and makes the book very violent. Sternbergh has also decided to narrate the book as if it is inside Spademan’s head, you are being talked too, but I don’t really know why Spademan would talk to us as if we were people from our present i.e. his past. It leads to some strange sections reflecting on the now, then and future. Finally, the decision to not use speech marks always annoys me, they have worked well enough for a few hundred years; every now and again an author thinks you can do without.

There is a decent noir novel within a well released world, but the various barriers stop this from being a great book.
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