The dead aren’t really gone, they persist as phone numbers, social media accounts, newsletter recipients, and as members of fan-fiction forums. Digital ghosts move and connect us: we feel we know people we have only seen online just as corporations masquerade as familiar friends. Rubik, a darkly comedic meta novel in interconnected stories, follows Elena Rubik, her best friend Jules Valentine, and wannabe investigative reporter April Kuan, as a viral marketing scheme’s motivations become cause for concern.
I have been most successful thus far in describing this immense novel as an Inception fan fiction. To consider Rubik from this angle—that is, through the lens of pastiche—is not to undermine the work, but rather to applaud its manner of deconstructing conventional standards of value when it comes to art ... This is a work of uncanny doublings and echoes; rife with cultural allusions, real and invented. It is massively, profoundly intertextual. It is recursively — though not redundantly — metafictional. It is metafiction that swallowed metafiction, that chuckles at metafiction. Like all great metafiction, it deploys art as metaphor, a mirror for life itself, except here the reflections proliferate and the plot is lost ... For its formal brilliance and contemporaneity, Tan’s debut novel might bear comparisons to a work like Infinite Jest; however, if Wallace’s masterwork is a 'baggy monster,' then Rubik is a baggie monster, neatly apportioned even in its sprawl.
It's the kind of book that reminds you of nights—and they are somehow always nights—when you discussed Big Concepts like Life and the Universe and Reality with your friends, and fell asleep with your mind gently buzzing ... But the novel isn't all wordplay and clever conceit—it has a true heart, and many of the characters are achingly full of pathos ... Whatever your jam is—mind-bending logic, beautiful, lyrical writing, or a deep dive into contemporary life—there is something brilliant here for everyone.
Elizabeth Tan’s debut, Rubik, is so clever and imaginative, it merits being part of the literary canon of great novels-in-stories ... But Rubik is more than experimental fiction about humanity and capitalism. Yes, it is a social satire, but it’s also a meditation on time and space ... like any good novel-in-story, Rubik does more than just allow its stories to connect through theme or character. It isn’t until you finish reading and step back and look, that you see what once seemed like jumbled chaos all lines up symmetrically, connecting all these themes that once seemed at odds, just like a Rubik’s cube.