Mysterious Book Report Shovel ReadyShovel Ready by Adam Sternbergh

Crown Publishing/ Random House, $24.00, 243 pages, ISBN 978-0-385-34899-7

Truthfully, I’ve been getting bored with most of the dystopian-themed novels that have been all the rage for the last few years.  I mean, how much end of the world zombie-alien-robopocalypse or vampire-werewolfen invasions can we take before we go Yeah.  Been there, done that, seen it, seen it, seen it and not only did we get a t-shirt, we wore it out and now we’re using what’s left of it as a dust rag . . . You know what I mean—booorrring!  But then, just when you think you’ve seen and done it all, along comes a Si-Fi. novel so compelling, so fresh and so innovative, and yeah, so sarcastic and funny that it screams CULT CLASSIC IN THE MAKING with every page.

Shovel Ready, by Adam Sternbergh is, as author Megan Abbott so aptly puts it, ” . . . sleek, resonant, and accomplished.”  But then again, what else would one expect from the culture editor of the New York Times Magazine?  And, it’s a debut novel to boot!  As the novel begins, New York City has been devastated by a dirty bomb—radioactive materials piled up and dispersed in the air with conventional explosives such as dynamite, which causes wide-spread radiation damage, as well as public hysteria—and in the resulting panic, much of the city has been abandoned, but not all of it.  Some stayed.  The ones who stayed fall into two classes: the ultra-wealthy, who live in high-rise towers, zonked out on specially designed beds while plugged into intravenous chemicals that sustain life and deliver beautiful dreams of an alternate reality.  The second class citizens live in the streets below, doing whatever they feel like doing, since anarchy reigns because chaos has replaced law, order and reason. Now we meet Spademan, the hero/antihero/protagonist and assassin who’ll take care of your problems as soon as his requisite fee is deposited, no questions asked.  All he wants is the money and a name, the only rules being no kids and no pregnant women.  His services are quick, and lethal.  As Spademan himself likes to say, I’m doing what I’ve always done—taking out the trash.  Spademan, who lives across the Hudson River in New Jersey, was a garbageman, as was his father, before the bomb went off.  Life for Spademan is simple and profitable, until he accepts a commission to take out a wealthy televangelist’s daughter.  Then his world flips upside down, some of his rules get discarded and he becomes the hunted . . . rather than the hunter.  Shovel Ready is a walk on the weird side.  It’s fast-paced, chic, snarky as hell, but fun and entertaining in an avant-garde way for the sophisticated reader looking for a different kind of book to enjoy . . . and you’ll be able to say I read it before it became a cult classic!  And lastly I’m pleased to report that a second Spademan novel is in the works.  I can’t wait to read it . . .


John Dwaine McKenna