Pushing genre boundaries is like rushing into a firefight while trying to balance an egg on a spoon. And yet, in his fun, thoughtful, and strange debut novel, The Body Scout, Lincoln Michel seems to have made his way through said firefight with egg firmly in spoon ... When it comes to mixing genres, Michel has a chef’s sensibility for complementary tastes ... Some might pause over Michel’s surreal world-building...however, the novel introduces these details with enough consistency and clarity of intent that a good-faith reader will soon be on the same wavelength. There’s also enough capital A action and satisfying answers to the novel’s dramatic questions to reward readers when they get to the end of the book—which, comparisons notwithstanding, is a refreshing and assuredly unique work.
... blends noir, cyberpunk and sports into something at once timeless and original ... Kobo’s love for and grief over his brother animates every page, and the real gravity of those feelings exists in affecting contrast to the glib, corporatized dystopia he inhabits. Michel’s writing is beautiful, too, breathing sophisticated life into stock genre types, and illuminating vast tracts of story with casual wrist-flicks of world building. The Body Scout is a wild ride, sad and funny, surreal and intelligent.
...fun in the same way frog dissection day in middle school biology is fun. It’s largely unpleasant (beyond the stomach-churning gore, there’s a vague sense of wrongness that underpins both) yet offers a kind of perverse permission to witness what Cornel West might call the 'funk of life'...and has the power to fascinate, captivate, and perhaps even illuminate ... The novel is largely satirical in tone. Michel takes your average conflicts of late-stage capitalism—housing crises, insurmountable debt, employers with no sense of obligation or empathy for their employees—and exaggerates them into their most monstrous forms ... Of course, like all good science fiction (and satire), Michel tempts us to consider the ways in which this is already true: to what extent are professional sports leagues already corporate-run marketing schemes engineered to distract the public from an increasingly dire reality? ... The world Michel describes is complex, gnarled, full of unfamiliar lingo (Edenists, trogstoys, zootech), but he interweaves world building with plot so seamlessly that the rapid-fire pace he sets never feels bogged down by exposition ... The novel’s bent toward surrealism and its thematic concerns—many of which circle the elusive question of what constitutes the self—call to mind the work of Philip K. Dick in particular, but the sci-fi traditions Michel draws from are as varied and outlandishly collaged as the piecemeal humans of his imagined future ... one is never without the sense that Michel is having an enormous amount of fun in his sandbox, creating worlds with an equal measure of hard-won skill and a sense of spirited, mischievous play.
While the imagery in question is often mesmerizing, it also feels largely in service of the larger themes of the novel ... Michel’s worldbuilding here is both understated and devastating. There’s also something clever about it—of course a hard-boiled investigator from New York would lament how the city had changed over the years ... There also a handful of impeccably bizarre moments that illustrate just how far certain aspects of technology have gone in this future world ... Kobo is a compelling character all his own, but the supporting cast adds unexpected dimensions to the work ... But it’s another subplot—that involving a subculture of radical believers in and end to body modification, who loudly protest on the streets of New York and live in an abandoned subway station—that gives The Body Scout its most ominous aspect. For some readers, they might come off like a cult; for others, they could be seen as the only functional part of society. And like the best novels that take aspects of the present day and crank them up to 11, The Body Scout offers a compelling vision of tomorrow along with a haunting question: where would you find yourself if you lived in this world?
Lincoln Michel is an enormously talented writer, and one of the things he does exceptionally well is blend genres ... impressive in its attention to detail, for almost everything about this world has been so thoroughly fleshed out that even throwaway lines contain a wealth of information ... Such a wealth of detail, information, and plot-propelling action make The Body Scout a wickedly clever, fast-paced, entertaining read, while, I think, sacrificing a bit of character introspection. That’s not to say that every literary novel must or should be packed to the gills with dime-store philosophizing, but in a novel where the main character is defined by trauma, a turn towards descriptive passages conveying an intensity of emotional depth would have perhaps balanced some of that propulsive action. I say that because during those spare moments when Michel chooses to have his characters plumb their interior lives, he writes it beautifully about it ... a modern-day masterpiece. Still, this novel is one hell of a mercilessly entertaining ride, one that I can’t recommend enough. Dear reader, you’re in for a treat.
Having a baseball scout as an amateur sleuth makes the novel interesting; its near-future setting makes it special ... Michel...makes his long-form debut here, and a spectacularly successful debut it is. Great entertainment for any reader on the mystery/science-fiction spectrum.
[A] brisk, entertaining debut ... The plot moves fast and features well-wrought if expected worldbuilding details, including floating billboards, advanced drug and gene therapies, cybernetic rebuilds, obnoxious and über-wealthy CEOs, and ecological collapse. Readers won’t need to be baseball fans to enjoy this gripping ride.
It’s a dizzying world but catnip for cyberpunk fans. How do you navigate a world in which everyone is altered? In this scenario, everyone and everything might be Chekhov’s gun. Everybody duck. A fun-to-read addition to the cyberpunk canon.