cover image Plastic


Scott Guild. Pantheon, $28 (304p) ISBN 978-0-593-31676-4

Guild’s zany debut depicts a near future reshaped by a devastating war, climate disaster, and virtual reality. After people resort to burning chicken bones as an energy source, the consequent “HeatLeap” prompts eco-terrorists to stage violent attacks on businesses. When the terrorists strike a tech retail outlet, an employee named Erin who is a “figurine” made of plastic comes to the aid of Jacob, a customer and fellow figurine who is blind. The two begin a tentative relationship, both in the “real” world and in the simulated “Smartworld.” Meanwhile, Erin starts receiving warnings of impending attacks on her in Smartworld from avatars. Guild styles the story of Erin’s life as a television series, with chapters framed as synopses of “episodes” and occasional monologues to the audience. Alongside Erin’s “show” are descriptions of a sitcom called Nuclear Family, set in the first year after the war and depicting a Romeo and Juliet–like teenage romance between a plastic figurine and a waffle. Though the novel’s considerations of such weighty issues as terrorism and the despoliation of the planet are generally skin-deep, Guild shines in his impressions of a speculative world where waffles are viewed with suspicion in the plastic community for “crav[ing] the syrup of power above all else.” It’s great fun watching Guild arrange the pieces of this inspired allegory. Agent: Bill Clegg, Clegg Agency. (Mar.)