PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewBoyle uses a sly combination of sci-fi and nostalgia to look back while illuminating the future and all the coming catastrophes, all the ways civilization might be hurtling toward its final act ... It’s too bad the book is marred by Boyle’s tediously stereotypical portrayal of women. It’s an old-school sexism: Women are mean and harpy if they are wives or girlfriends; they’re sex objects if neighbors, and described in textbook cliché ... Aside from this blind spot Boyle is a great storyteller. He writes with the fluidity and grace of a master ... Boyle’s close alternate worlds are reminiscent at times of George Saunders’s stories, but unlike the lefty Saunders, whose protagonists head-butt true ethical dilemmas and take on corporations and capitalism in the name of love and truth, Boyle frames individuals themselves as the problem ... Boyle’s stories feel as if they’re coming from the end of the world, from a time when we will finally be unable to live with what we are and what we have and what we have done.
RaveBookforumIt is a quintessential modernist expat novel: Adam does very little but walk from celebrated place to celebrated place, brooding, doubting himself, half-understanding what’s said to him, and being increasingly ugly to the people around him … The bulk of the book is about Adam’s wild insecurity. He fears that he is a fraud and that his fraudulence will be detected. He believes he might have no talent, that he received the grant due to the false ways he presents himself to others … While the book clearly belongs to the modernist tradition, it is fiercely contemporary—not only in the pulsing presence of the Internet and antidepressants, but also in Adam’s assertion that one must wade through countless layers of fraudulence if one is ever to reach anything that feels truthful.
RaveBookforumSuddenly we realize that she has led us, in what felt like random moves, to a dazzling checkmate ending, final lines that feel philosophical, spiritual, universal yet particular, funny yet penetrating: 'What if everything one did mattered. Thank God it could not.'