A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice
Featured on recommended reading lists by the New York Times • New York Post • Library Journal • Thrillist • Locus • USA TODAY
"The first great science fiction novel of 2020. " —NPR
“As intellectually playful as the best of Thomas Pynchon and as sardonically warm as the best of Kurt Vonnegut. . . A masterful and humane gem of a novel.” —Shaun Hamill, author of A Cosmology of Monsters
Blending the piercing humor of Alexandra Kleeman and the jagged satire of Black Mirror, an audacious, eerily prescient debut novel that chronicles the rise and fall of a massive high-rise housing complex, and the lives it affected before - and after - its demise.
Standing nearly five hundred stories tall, Los Verticalés once bustled with life and excitement. Now this marvel of modern architecture and nontraditional urban planning has collapsed into a pile of rubble known as the Heap. In exchange for digging gear, a rehabilitated bicycle, and a small living stipend, a vast community of Dig Hands removes debris, trash, and bodies from the building’s mountainous remains, which span twenty acres of unincorporated desert land.
Orville Anders burrows into the bowels of the Heap to find his brother Bernard, the beloved radio DJ of Los Verticalés, who is alive and miraculously broadcasting somewhere under the massive rubble. For months, Orville has lived in a sea of campers that surrounds the Heap, working tirelessly to free Bernard—the only known survivor of the imploded city—whom he speaks to every evening, calling into his radio show.
The brothers’ conversations are a ratings bonanza, and the station’s parent company, Sundial Media, wants to boost its profits by having Orville slyly drop brand names into his nightly talks with Bernard. When Orville refuses, his access to Bernard is suddenly cut off, but strangely, he continues to hear his own voice over the airwaves, casually shilling products as “he” converses with Bernard.
What follows is an imaginative and darkly hilarious story of conspiracy, revenge, and the strange life and death of Los Verticalés that both captures the wonderful weirdness of community and the bonds that tie us together.
Adams's debut, set on a disaster site in a strange alternate present, is an incandescent, melancholy satire. Orville Anders toils daily on the site of the collapsed Los Vertical s a massive skyscraper. Every evening, he calls his brother, Bernard, a resident of the former tower who is somehow still broadcasting the radio show he hosts from somewhere in the rubble. Meanwhile, the bureaucratic chairperson of the Committee for Better Life in CamperTown stymies Orville's friend Lydia's schemes to oversee the upcoming visit of Peter Thisbee, the eccentric entrepreneur behind Los Vertical s, and share her views. After Orville rejects the radio station's proposal that he begin mentioning brand names during the brothers' conversations and they remove the phones, the calls continue regardless in his own voice with painfully obvious product placement. As Orville investigates who is impersonating him, he stumbles into a violent, absurd conspiracy while Lydia abruptly gets her wish only to be hindered by Thisbee's handlers. 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.