I found it entertaining and it kept my attention, but I can’t help wondering why Amazon recommended it to an ornery libertarian such as myself: it seems to be a manifesto for Occupy Wall Street.
Edyl takes place about 100 years in the future, when the 1% has achieved its sinister objective of replacing all government with a corporation (known as the World Organizing Committee, or WOCO), and thereby bogarting most of world's wealth, along with all of its sunshine, clean water, fresh fruit, and massage beds. And immortality – WOCO has discovered the secret of eternal life. But since the world has limited resources, this secret cannot be shared with just anyone. People must compete for it. Once a year, thousands of individuals who have reached the tops of their professions are nominated for the Edyl Sporting and Cultural Olympiad. They travel to Edyl Island, home of the immortals, where they vie to be named the best at art, weightlifting, plumbing, and so on. The closing ceremony is the grand March of the Immortals, when the winners pass through the Golden Gates to the “island proper.” There they will undergo the immortality procedure and begin their new and lengthy lives in the sun. So basically, Edyl Island is Fritz Lang’s 1927 Metropolis with an Olympic Stadium.
And mind readers. The narrator, known only as R77K through most of the book, is a rising, mid-level employee in the WOCO “Reading Department”, a sort of telepathic NSA. R77K is assigned to spy on the thoughts of three of the contestants. Two are typical enough: Lena is a nineteen-year-old rock star and Ollie is a championship runner. But it’s the third target that sets off alarm bells in R77K’s mind: Darrick – a contract killer. Clearly dirty work is afoot at the Edyl Olympiad. The mystery deepens when Darrick completes an assignment and reports back to his handler, a shadowy figure whom he calls Mr. Croak (because of his ability to cause people to croak). Croak tells him, “You might just have fired the first shot in a revolution.” But whether it is a revolution for good, and whose side he’s on, he doesn’t say.
The world of Edyl is imaginative, but the prose is not. Although clear, it lacks good lines or clever turns of phrase. And most of the characters just don’t pop for me. I never had a good feel for who R77K, Olly, and Darrick were. The happy exception was Lena, a vivid portrait of a teenager who thinks that, unlike the adults in her world, she has all the answers. And yet, in spite of her superior wisdom, she lives in a state of constant emotional turmoil. I said she was vivid, not endearing.
I also thought the author missed an opportunity in that we never see the WOCO hacks relishing the spectacle of the contestants competing for their lives, a la the Roman colosseum. Perhaps he'll use that in a sequel.
The ending was somewhat unsatisfying. Although Croak eventually explains everything going on behind the scenes, and we learn who is revolting against whom, it turns out that people who are supposed to be good guys did some real harm to the contestants, for reasons that were never clear to me.
Still, I did get caught up in the story, and I haven’t given up on Mr. Capell. His Café Insomniac looks promising and I look forward to reading it soon.
I was honored to receive this, and it raises an interesting question about literary theory: to what extent should the monologues and dialogue in a novel resemble the way we think and talk in real life?
Michael Isenberg is the author of Full Asylum, a novel about politics, freedom, and hospital gowns. Check it out on Amazon.com