Amy and I both feel lethargic and a little sick yesterday, so neither of us felt like doing anything or going anywhere. It might have been re-entry from 10 days on the road, it might have been the tuberculous ward that was the cabin of our airplane, or it just might have been the Sunday lazies.
So I read Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. Someone – maybe the publisher – sent it in the mail to me and I got it the same weekend that I read a review of it in the New York Times Book Review. Something about it appealed to me and even though it was a 400 page fiction book that felt pretty daunting in hardcover, it still felt manageable when compared to a David Foster Wallace epic. It sat on our coffee table for a few weeks until I picked it up and demolished it yesterday.
It was awesome, up until the last 50 pages. David Shafer, the author, has a magical way with words. Paragraphs unfolded in delightful ways, often ending with a surprise phrase that tied into something else. The three protagonists were deep and complicated, especially against the backdrop of the twisted, complex, and steadily unfolding plot. While it was predictable that their lives would converge and tangle, it happened suddenly, after what seemed like interminable foreplay, which in fact is how foreplay like this should feel.
The backdrop for the book is corrupt enterprise and government stuff, but with a subtle tone that sets it apart from the normal thriller genre. WTF (its abbreviation) is literature, not cyber thriller, espionage tale, or spy/government/mental floss. There are plenty of WTF moments, and then some more, and then things come together, and then they separate, and then more WTF happens.
The collection of all information in the universe is part of it, along with a parallel “non-Internet Internet.” Oh – and there are plant-based computers that grow in the midst of a pot farm. Well – not really a pot farm, but that’s the disguise. So there’s some sci-fi mixed with drug and hippie themes. And lots and lots of stuff that feels very real, right now.
I was about four hours into the book, with about 50 pages to go, and I suddenly had the feeling that the plot wasn’t going to resolve. There were simply not enough physical pages in my right hand. With 25 pages to go, I was certain it wouldn’t resolve and I started to get a little annoyed. When it finished, I said to Amy, “that was awesome, except the ending.”
In the light of a new day, I am now looking forward to WTF the Sequel. I don’t want to wait a few years for it, and know that it might never come. But I hope that’s what Shafer is working on.
If you like real fiction, that is well written, and contemporary, especially first novels, go grab a copy of Whiskey Tango Foxtrot right now.