National Best Seller • Named a Best Book of the Year by: New York Times, Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, NPR, Vogue, The Atlantic, Newsday
“A novel of head-snapping ambition and heart-stopping power—a novel that attests to its young author’s boundless and unflagging talents.” —Michiko Kakutani, New York Times
New York City, 1976. Meet Regan and William Hamilton-Sweeney, estranged heirs to one of the city’s great fortunes; Keith and Mercer, the men who, for better or worse, love them; Charlie and Samantha, two suburban teenagers seduced by downtown’s punk scene; an obsessive magazine reporter and his idealistic neighbor—and the detective trying to figure out what any of them have to do with a shooting in Central Park on New Year’s Eve.
The mystery, as it reverberates through families, friendships, and the corridors of power, will open up even the loneliest-seeming corners of the crowded city. And when the blackout of July 13, 1977, plunges this world into darkness, each of these lives will be changed forever.
City on Fire is an unforgettable novel about love and betrayal and forgiveness, about art and truth and rock ’n’ roll: about what people need from each other in order to live . . . and about what makes the living worth doing in the first place.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Thanks to this staggeringly creative debut novel, author Garth Risk Hallberg has been compared to Jonathan Franzen and David Foster Wallace. Hallberg's writing is cutting-edge, but his moving and mesmerizing portrait of New York City in the ‘70s harkens back to 19th-century classics. With its Dickensian cast of characters and plot twists, City on Fire captures a gritty era at every level, from old money to the downtown punk scene—and every setting rings true.
Hallberg's maniacally detailed, exhaustingly clever depiction of 1970s New York is packed with urban angst, intellectual energy, and sinister pitfalls, much like the city it evokes. This epic of drugs, sex, and rock and roll combines fiction and new journalistic accounts of real events, with a character's typed manuscript drafts (spill marks included), hand-written diaries, notebooks, photographs, cartoons, drawings, homework, and personal correspondence. A cast of characters drawn from all social strata features William Hamilton-Sweeney, artist and sometime heroin addict, once heir to a fortune, once lead guitarist for the post-humanist rock band Ex Post Facto; and Sam Cicciaro, the girl everyone finds irresistible, discovered half-dead in Central Park by William's lover, Mercer. The search to identify Sam's attacker is one of several story lines tying the ambitious work together; another is Mercer's attempt, propelled by William's sister, Regan, to bring William back into the family fold as their father's business collapses and troubles in the family mount. Charlie, an alienated teenager who becomes a rock band groupie, falls for Sam. Meanwhile Richard Kosgroth, veteran journalist and Capote wannabe, interviews Sam's father, New York's fireworks king. Seventies survivors will not be surprised when city residents come together during the '77 blackout. Readers wishing to wallow in cultural trivia will find much to savor in Hallberg's all-encompassing, occasionally overwritten effort, but others will be left to wonder how so much energy could generate so little light.
Customer ReviewsSee All
City on Fire
I was so disappointed in this book. It had everything going for it. NY in the 70s, punk rock, family drama, a mystery, fascinating characters. But, ugh. Pretentious, convoluted, precious, and ultimately boring, confusing and just plain frustrating. I'd like to ask the writer, like an English professor, to rewrite it and lose all the stupid clever garbage like graphic novels in the middle of the book and just write a great story. Stop trying to impress and write well.
City on Fire
What a ripoff. The first 100 pages were interesting followed by hundreds and hundreds of boring stuff. This was written to impress his English professor and not his reader. Even the climax was boring.
City on Fire
City on Fire started strong and took 944 pages to fizzle out. Poor character development, sloppy transitions from one chapter to the next. Half the time I had to stop and figure out which characters POV I was reading. Some storylines are just completely abandoned and after laboring through 944 pages I don't know what happened to victim or assailant. Crap