cover image The Municipalists

The Municipalists

Seth Fried. Penguin, $16 trade paper (272p) ISBN 978-0-14-313373-5

Fried’s lackluster debut explores the relationship between users and technology in an urban thriller constrained by its narrow scope. After a terrorist cyberattack on the United States Municipal Survey (USMS) headquarters in Suitland, Md., investigator Henry Thompson, an introverted longtime employee of the organization, travels to the megacity of Metropolis, where he searches for the USMS employees behind the supposed inside job. Accompanying him is a hologram AI named OWEN, who creates limitless illusions and has a strange thirst for liquor. Murderous thugs pursue Henry, who shares their violent inclinations and easily accepts that he may have to murder and torture for his job. With OWEN as his primary confidant and weapon, Henry follows clue after clue to put a stop to the rogue faction. The relationship between Henry and OWEN is simple and repetitive, and with a small and male-dominated cast, the story is empty and quiet. The breadcrumb-trail plot and stiff protagonists undermine both the serious thriller concepts and the contrasting elements of the bizarre. Agent: Stacia Decker, Dunow, Carlson & Lerner. (Mar.)