cover image A Zero-Sum Game

A Zero-Sum Game

Eduardo Rabasa, trans. from the Spanish by Christina MacSweeney. Deep Vellum (Consortium, dist.), $15.95 trade paper (400p) ISBN 978-1-941920-38-1

Villa Miserias, the sprawling, run-down suburban housing complex outside an unnamed city that is the setting of Rabasa's delightful debut novel, is controlled by a suave political overseer named Selon Perdumes. In the run-up to the election of a new president of the housing complex, Perdumes advances his preferred candidate and scouts out potential pockets of opposition. Perdumes relies on a combination of prying gossip and a philosophy he calls "Quietism in Motion" to exert his influence. Max Michels is the bookish figure who rises to challenge Perdumes's power. Rabasa weaves in elements of farce throughout the political drama. Within the housing complex are a security force called the Black Paunches, a series of ramshackle drug-dealing cartels, and a mysterious consulting business called $uperstructure. G.B.W. Ponce, the founder of $uperstructure, uses Villa Miserias as a laboratory where he can pursue his vision of "codifying social existence down to the last iota," and enlists Michels to help him test the political reality of Villa Miserias. Rabasa's novel is built much like the sprawling housing complex it portrays: a complex but self-contained set of ideas populated by funny and frightening characters. Rabasa has crafted an Orwellian satire of low-level bureaucrats, urban dreamers, and political power. (Oct.)