The Candy House

Jennifer Egan. Scribner, $27 (352p) ISBN 978-1-4767-1676-3

Egan returns to the fertile territory and characters of A Visit from the Goon Squad with an electrifying and shape-shifting story that one-ups its Pulitzer-winning predecessor. I’ll see your PowerPoint chapter, Egan seems to say, and raise you a chapter in tweets, and another in emails and texts. In the near future, a platform called Own Your Unconscious allows memories to be uploaded to the cloud and accessed by anyone. “Counters” seek to ferret out “proxies” that help hide “eluders” who resist merging their “gray grabs” to the collective in order to leave their online personae behind. Not everyone sees this as panacea, and a countermovement called Mondrian arises. Appearances from music producer Bennie Salazar, his mentor Lou Kline, and their lovers and children provide sharp pleasures for Goon Squad fans, and Egan cleverly echoes the ambitious, savvy marketing schemes of real-world tech barons with Own Your Unconscious. It casts its spell on Bennie, whose punk rock days with the Flaming Dildos are long past: “Tongue-in-cheek nostalgia is merely the portal, the candy house, if you will, through which we hope to lure in a new generation and bewitch them,” he writes in an email. Twisting through myriad points of view, narrative styles, and divergent voices, Egan proves herself as perceptive an interpreter of the necessity of human connection as ever, and her vision is as irresistible as the tech she describes. This is Egan’s best yet. Agent: Binky Urban, ICM Partners. (Apr.)
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