[An] engrossing debut novel ... Adams' imaginative scope is staggering ... No story about collapsed skyscrapers in the 21st century can avoid the ghost of Sept. 11. But Adams seems intent on steering clear of any kind of allegory in that regard. If anything, The Heap calls back to J.G. Ballard's 1975 novel High-Rise, although it's far lighter in its portrayal of how cloistered urban life can contort the arbitrary human conceits of time, space, morality and normality ... The Heap is dizzying in scale, but at its heart it's an endearing and downright fun story about a man who defies all odds to reestablish a familial link that's been sundered by technology, catastrophe and commerce ... The first great science fiction novel of 2020.
Sean Adams is thankfully less interested in allegory than in harnessing its strange contrasts to create cutting satire. And while there is a thematic anxiety, in this debut, about voice and speech that alludes to the story of the Tower of Babel, the forces in play are decidedly earthly ... It is to Adams’s credit that he establishes this lengthy premise with brisk efficiency ... a compelling narrative, with unexpected twists and darkly comic turns. Weighing it down, however, are Adams’s efforts to fill out the novel’s world ... engaging material, but the decision to interweave it throughout the present narrative slows down the plot without heightening suspense.
The cluttered yet routine-oriented world first novelist Adams describes surrounding the Heap recalls elaborate dystopian scenes found in Terry Gilliam films, while life in Los Verticalés before its collapse is purportedly drawn from the sporadic records of the nostalgia-addled 'Displaced Travelers,' who were not present for the fall. The structure’s past and the Heap’s story of brotherly connection present irresistibly clever commentary steeped in wit and secrets.
Interspersed throughout are chapters detailing the skewed environment in which the complex dwellers lived, with the world outside not looking much better ... Adams’s debut is an effective, jolting dystopic novel that should appeal widely.
... [a] pulpish aesthetic [and] a zany sense of humour... both Pythonesque in its conception, but also genuinely sinister ... As much as I enjoyed the Cartel, what I truly loved was how Adams, across the course of the novel, parcelled out the extraordinary story of Los Verticalés ... Just like Peter Thisbee built the Vert level by level, Adams adds a layer of worldbuilding with each excerpt – whether it’s an explanation of the Vert’s political structure or the establishment of a bordello in the underground carpark – that deepens our understanding of this strange, fascinating enclosed world. Behind it all, though, is the tragic foreknowledge that for all the eccentricities, for all the customs and traditions and improvised solutions that come from living in an almost hermetically sealed environment, things won’t last – the building will fall ... deeply weird but poignant novel about the extended family we discover amongst the rubble and ruin of a rich man’s folly.
Adams’ debut novel is a dystopian nightmare that is metaphorical in nature but has a compelling story, a recognizable villain, and a few key characters whose personality traits make them interesting ... It’s distressing that we have so many bleak visions of the future these days but at least here people are given a chance to dig themselves out of the hole that the upper class made ... A vision of the future that gives the working class a chance to get even.
... an incandescent, melancholy satire ... Excerpts from an oral history of the prior residents’ surreal life inside the tower provide a whimsically dystopian background to the main madcap plot. Fans of Borges and other inventive but piercing stories will revel in this offbeat novel.