Tonguing the Zeitgeist Paperback – May 1994
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From Publishers Weekly
This futuristic novel is something of a puzzler. On one hand, Olsen is the master of an evocative, expressive prose. Hip images tumble across the page with a hypnotic, hallucinogenic clarity. On the other hand, Olsen's characters are flat, unappealing and poorly motivated, and his sense of structure is virtually nonexistent. The action focuses mainly on Ben Tendo, an acoustic guitar-playing musician who lives in what used to be the Pacific Northwest of the United States and dreams of success and riches in a world dominated by wizards of electronic music. Ben's story zips and lurches along in dislocating jump-cuts that are so over-engineered that the story line is lost in a confusing morass of seemingly unconnected details. There's too much emphasis on being cool, and not enough emphasis on craftsmanship. Ages 14-up.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
While Olsen's recent study of William Gibson identifies the cyberpunk founder as one of his chief literary influences, his latest novel owes at least as much to the macabre vision of Hieronymous Bosch. By turns deliciously satirical and disturbingly prophetic, the book takes the rock-music industry for a ride into a twisted twenty-first century. Ben Tendo is an unassuming order-taker for an offbeat mail-order porno supplier, Beautiful Mutants, Ltd., and also moonlights for the heavy-metal band Lithium Breed in postearthquake Seattle. When every member of the reigning media-anointed grunge band is assassinated by a psychopath, the music industry must find a new puppet to peddle, and Ben Tendo is it. Kidnapped, forcibly addicted, and implanted with a new voice-box, Ben soon learns the road to fame is paved with market shares and can end as quickly as it began. Olsen's densely packed, kaleidoscopic prose paints a nightmare vision of a near future spawned from our worst contemporary fears, such as rampant global warming, environmental decay, and an increasingly sick and cynical media. Brilliant black comedy. Carl Hays
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
This is a future in which Robert Redford is President and going outside without the proper filters can net you your own set of pollution sores. This is a time in which most music isn't original anymore, so to make it big, the musicians themselves have to be original.
The main character is a member of a small time
rock band by night, and a telephone order-taker for sex products specializing in mutilated bodies by day. He finds himself caught up in the rush to fame as a rock star, not realizing what price his body will have to pay.
This is post-grunge, post-cyberpunk, post-postmodern at its hippest avant-popness. This book is weird and way out there, but
highly recommended for people who would enjoy an off-beat, satirical look at a future heavily influenced by today's alternative culture.