In the shifting sands of the desert, near an unnamed metropolis, there is an institute where various fellows come to undertake projects of great significance. But when our sort-of-hero, Percy Frobisher, arrives, his mind goes completely blank.
Manages to be breezy and profound in equal measure ... a clever metafictional sendup of artists’ retreats and tech-industry think tanks ... [contains] one of the most perfectly tuned passages of fiction I’ve read in a very long time ... In inviting a comparison to Mann’s masterpiece, Mendelsund has set a difficult task for himself...reaches literary heights of its own, even if it occasionally punches down at some easy targets. In using nonsensical jargon to expose the hollow core of the global Big Ideas industry, Mendelsund has produced — or perhaps reproduced — something entirely satisfying. Same Same is a substantial book about emptiness. It reminds us that there’s no here here unless we create it ourselves.
Like an ever-shifting Rubik’s Cube, Mendelsund’s narrative blends influences and genres at will: it begins as an sf dystopia, unfurls like a mystery, and includes some deeply insular sections reminiscent of the late David Markson. Using a setting and themes similar to Don DeLillo’s Zero K (2016), Mendelsund has created a dense, complex, and rewarding novel that explores the ever-hazier distinctions between copying and creating, between ourselves and our ubiquitous devices, and between what is real and what is simulated.
Mendelsund, by day an art director and book-cover designer at Knopf, has a grand time serving up what would seem to be an extended metaphor for creativity, complete with some useful if sometimes strange pointers that would do Brian Eno proud ... Mendelsund’s novel of ideas makes a neat bookend to Richard Powers’s Galatea 2.2 as a study of creation in the age of the smart machine.