Author: Adam Sternbergh
Release Date: January 14, 2014
An addictive genre-blend of a thriller: the immersive sci-fi of Ernest Cline; the hard-boiled rhythms of Don Winslow; the fearless bravado of Chuck Palahniuk; and the classic noir of James M. Cain
Spademan used to be a garbage man. That was before the dirty bomb hit Times Square, before his wife was killed, and before the city became a bombed-out shell of its former self. Now he's a hitman.
In a New York City split between those who are wealthy enough to "tap into" a sophisticated virtual reality for months at a time and those left to fend for themselves in the ravaged streets, Spademan chose the streets. His clients like that he doesn't ask questions, that he works quickly, and that he's handy with a box cutter. He finds that killing people for money is not that different from collecting trash, and the pay is better. His latest client hires him to kill the daughter of a powerful evangelist. Finding her is easy, but the job quickly gets complicated: his mark has a shocking secret and his client has an agenda far beyond a simple kill. Now Spademan must navigate the dual levels of his world-the gritty reality and the slick fantasy-to finish the job, to keep his conscience clean, and to stay alive.
Adam Sternbergh has written a dynamite debut: gritty, violent, funny, riveting, tender, and brilliant.
Shovel Ready is the type of novel that crushes labels and defies genres. In my opinion, books like this appear very rarely and the readers who are lucky enough to find them are changed afterwards. It's hard to write a review for this book, considering all the aspects to the story and the writing characteristics. The main character is simply called Spademan. He's the epitome of an anti-hero who is in fact the hero. It sounds like it doesn't make sense, but if you read the book you'll understand what I mean. Spademan had a normal life - a job as a garbage man and a wife - before the world was turned upside down by a dirty bomb in NYC. Now Spademan simply refers to himself as a garbage man - meaning he'll clean up people's messes for them (and a price). He detaches himself from this work - no client names, detailed information, anything - just a name and the money. Spademan is good at his new job. Everything turns upside down when he receives the name of a young girl who happens to be the daughter of a famous evangelist. After Spademan tracks her down, he breaks his own rules and gets to know her - and her secret. This changes everything for him and contrary to everything else in his life, he decides to help protect her from those wishing to harm her.
I'm just going to start this out by saying that I literally can't believe this is a debut novel. It seems impossible that something this profound and unique is the author's first novel. It truly showcases the author's natural talent and cements his place as a rising start in the world of literature. The writing style was a bit surprising and confusing at first. There are conversations thrown into the narrative without any warning or any way of identifying them (no quote marks around dialogue or making it clear a conversation is happening). Spademan's internal dialogue is done in this same manner - just kind of inserted into the story. It took me a few pages to figure out when this was happening, but once I got used to the technique, it was no longer a problem and I actually liked how the author presented them. Spademan is a fascinating main character. He's made to seem like a bad guy - what good person goes around killing other people for money? - but we get to see a different side to him through his dialogue and then after he meets the girl. Spademan is gritty, sarcastic, witty, and rude. I actually really liked his attitude and the conversations (both with other characters and inner dialogue) had me smirking quite a bit throughout the book. The plot is definitely full of action, suspense, and twists/turns you don't see coming. It wasn't confusing for me to follow along, even considering the writing style. I found it to be a quick read actually, because once I got into Spademan's head and world, I didn't come back out of it until the book was done. The pace of the story was fast and the story flowed quickly and effortlessly with lots of vivid imagery and detailed descriptions of everything from the characters to the setting and beyond. It's definitely a different writing style than most readers are used to - and maybe that's part of the reason I liked it so much. For some reason, it reminded me of something that Frank Miller would write - like a Sin City type book/movie. I can't explain why I felt this way, but it definitely stuck with me throughout the entire story. Overall, this novel is a breath of fresh air in the literary world. It combines genres yet defies labels - you can't pin it down with simply saying that it's a dystopia or a thriller, because it's so very much more than that. Add in the unique writing style and original story, and you have something rare and extraordinary. I highly recommend this book for those looking for a book outside the box of regular literature and those who enjoy strange stories with intense plots and characters. I'll definitely be waiting for the author's next release.
Intense and Incredibly Unique!!
* A huge thank you to the wonderful people at Crown for sending me a copy for review!*