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Claustrophobic paranoia, intentionally mediocre writing and a transparent gimmick dominate Egan's follow-up to Look at Me, centered on estranged cousins who reunite in Eastern Europe. Danny, a 36-year-old New York hipster who wears brown lipstick (and whose body can detect Wi-Fi availability), accepts his wealthy cousin Howard's invitation to come to Eastern Europe and help fix up the castle Howard plans on turning into a luxury Luddite hotel (check your cell at the door). In doing so, Danny can't help recalling the childhood prank he played on a young Howie that left the awkward adolescent nearly dead—or so writes Ray, the druggie inmate who's penning this novel-within-a-novel for his prison writing workshop. Subsequent chapters alternate between Danny's fantastical castle travails (it's home to a caustic baroness bent on preserving her family seat) and Ray's prison drama. There are funny asides and trappings (particularly digital technology) along the way, and the sendup of castle narratives generates some chuckles. But the connection between the two narratives, which Egan reveals in intentionally tawdry fashion, feels telegraphed from the first chapter, making for a frustrating read. (Aug.)
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The author of The Invisible Circus (1994) and Look at Me (2001) employs gothic conventions in an absorbing examination of the clash between the Old and New Worlds. The story of two cousins, Danny and Howard, who reunite to renovate an eastern European castle Howard has purchased, is narrated by Ray, a tormented convict who is desperate to make a connection with his writing teacher in the prison. Insisting the story is one that has merely been passed on to him by another man, Ray tells about how Danny leaves New York ambivalent about the prospect of helping Howard with his project. When Danny and Howard were boys, Danny and his other cousins played a cruel prank on Howard, and Danny worries that Howard, now a powerful man, hasn't forgiven him. Danny arrives at the castle uneasy, and his main desire is to set up a satellite dish and reconnect with the outside world. When the dish is lost, a devastated Danny ventures into the castle keep, where one of the family members of the castle's original owners, the baroness, has stationed herself. Danny's encounter with the baroness sends the novel careening toward a jaw-dropping revelation. Atmospheric and tense, this is a mesmerizing story. Kristine Huntley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.