cover image The Absolved

The Absolved

Matthew Binder. Black Spot, $14.99 trade paper (290p) ISBN 978-1-73240-072-6

Binder (High in the Streets) explores a heartless capitalist future that leaves humans underutilized in this scattershot dystopian novel. Conceited oncologist Henri is one of the few Americans who still has a job in 2036. Henri prefers employment to being one of the absolved, who rely on universal income because automation and efficiency have taken most jobs. He avoids his materialistic, demeaning wife, Rachel, and her charitable pursuits through a series of affairs and evenings at a local bar. Henri turns to his ambitious, calculating boss and friend, Serena, to secure a place in medical school for the two-dimensional Taylor, his most recent lover. As Henri flails through his personal problems and grows increasingly volatile, a Luddite presidential candidate rails against automation and gathers a devoted following. After Henri loses his job, he follows bartender Lydia and bitter, jobless Karl to Luddite meetings full of resentment. Eventually, the novel swerves into confused, absurd fascist extremes. Frequently stilted dialogue and Henri’s repulsive personality mangle Binder’s chilling vision of a bleak future, and it’s unclear who the target audience might be. Readers who can abide deeply unpleasant characters may be intrigued by the credible technocratic nightmare, but others will be put off. (Dec.)