...[Maazel is] a dazzling prose stylist with a gift for creating characters caught in extraordinary situations that defy credulity. Imagine a situation comedy written by Phillip K. Dick or a telenovela penned by Thomas Pynchon ... At times this kitchen sink approach threatens to smother the story, but Maazel propels the narrative forward with her knack for evoking empathy out of the improbable and transforming coincidence into conspiracy. A Little More Human is a character-driven work of literary fiction that also happens to be a thriller guided by a web of intrigue with an ending that not even a mind reader could see coming.
A Little More Human, in its spiraling, fast-paced, witty prose, is stylistically reminiscent of the best of Vonnegut and Pynchon, and its humor, combined with an exploration and critique of technology, sets the story squarely in the realm of contemporary novels such as Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story and Charles Yu’s How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe ... Though such a multiplicity of plot elements may have suffered at the hands of a less-talented writer — the equivalent of an over-confident juggler dropping six or seven plates and then treading on their shards — Maazel succeeds by mapping a variety of generic concerns onto the relatively simple through-line of a mystery.
...more often [than not] the writing is bright and shiny, as fun to follow as that bouncing ball ... Occasionally we dip into the shallow consciousness of Maazel’s characters, who think and talk like this: '?"I can’t make it without you," he said. "I know it hasn’t seemed like it for a while, but you are my life."?' But mostly we skate on that bright surface, which in this novel’s terms makes a certain sense. If consciousness and experience are so suspect and subject to distortion, forgetting and loss, perhaps it’s better not to go too deep. If only we can remember that.
Maazel’s omniscient narrator performs a more conventional kind of literary mind reading, revealing the thoughts of these characters and detailing their various motives. But the prevalence of plotting tends to reduce potentially complex figures to narrative devices ... Maazel’s prose, meanwhile, is less style-conscious than it was in her previous books and more lab-manual functional — sometimes technical, usually straightforward and active, rarely figurative or buzzing. For these reasons, A Little More Human seems intended to be as much a high-concept entertainment as a literary novel ... This is an unquestionably brainy book. I only wish it were as free-spirited and buoyant as the two that preceded it.
...a dense, complicated, and funny novel ... We all have our limits, but A Little More Human explores the possibility that we don’t know them like we think we do ... the question that A Little More Human is essentially always asking is: are people more themselves when in a crisis or less? In other words: are we most ourselves when pushed to the brink? Or is our true self the person we are most of the time? Maazel, like any good novelist, refrains from offering a clear answer.
Fans of Maazel’s earlier work will undoubtedly keep reading and find much to like here ... Maazel gets the manifold ways in which contemporary life is ridiculous. She also understands the ways in which comedy trends toward disaster. And, finally, she’s smart enough to interrogate the ways in which comedy and tragedy are the same. A treat for Maazel’s fans.
The story’s twists and turns, which can come at blistering speeds, also involve detective work by Phil’s father, who is hiding his encroaching dementia, and a first-time scammer trying to afford her mother’s medication. Maazel takes a dark, inventive look at the cost of pushing humans to their limits.