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Three young adults grapple with the usual thirty-something problems—boredom, authenticity, an omnipotent online oligarchy—in David Shafer's darkly comic debut novel. The Committee, an international cabal of industrialists and media barons, is on the verge of privatizing all information. Dear Diary, an idealistic online Underground, stands in the way of that takeover, using Three young adults grapple with the usual thirty-something problems—boredom, authenticity, an omnipotent online oligarchy—in David Shafer's darkly comic debut novel. The Committee, an international cabal of industrialists and media barons, is on the verge of privatizing all information. Dear Diary, an idealistic online Underground, stands in the way of that takeover, using radical politics, classic spycraft, and technology that makes Big Data look like dial-up. Into this secret battle stumbles an unlikely trio: Leila Majnoun, a disillusioned non-profit worker; Leo Crane, an unhinged trustafarian; and Mark Deveraux, a phony self-betterment guru who works for the Committee. Leo and Mark were best friends in college, but early adulthood has set them on diverging paths. Growing increasingly disdainful of Mark's platitudes, Leo publishes a withering takedown of his ideas online. But the Committee is reading—and erasing—Leo's words. On the other side of the world, Leila's discoveries about the Committee's far-reaching ambitions threaten to ruin those who are closest to her. In the spirit of William Gibson and Chuck Palahniuk,Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is both a suspenseful global thriller and an emotionally truthful novel about the struggle to change the world in- and outside your head.


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Three young adults grapple with the usual thirty-something problems—boredom, authenticity, an omnipotent online oligarchy—in David Shafer's darkly comic debut novel. The Committee, an international cabal of industrialists and media barons, is on the verge of privatizing all information. Dear Diary, an idealistic online Underground, stands in the way of that takeover, using Three young adults grapple with the usual thirty-something problems—boredom, authenticity, an omnipotent online oligarchy—in David Shafer's darkly comic debut novel. The Committee, an international cabal of industrialists and media barons, is on the verge of privatizing all information. Dear Diary, an idealistic online Underground, stands in the way of that takeover, using radical politics, classic spycraft, and technology that makes Big Data look like dial-up. Into this secret battle stumbles an unlikely trio: Leila Majnoun, a disillusioned non-profit worker; Leo Crane, an unhinged trustafarian; and Mark Deveraux, a phony self-betterment guru who works for the Committee. Leo and Mark were best friends in college, but early adulthood has set them on diverging paths. Growing increasingly disdainful of Mark's platitudes, Leo publishes a withering takedown of his ideas online. But the Committee is reading—and erasing—Leo's words. On the other side of the world, Leila's discoveries about the Committee's far-reaching ambitions threaten to ruin those who are closest to her. In the spirit of William Gibson and Chuck Palahniuk,Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is both a suspenseful global thriller and an emotionally truthful novel about the struggle to change the world in- and outside your head.

30 review for Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

  1. 5 out of 5

    karen

    i read this a couple weeks back, but i haven't been able to write a review for it. i didn't know wtf to say about it then and i don't know wtf to say about it now. so instead, i will interview myself: -why didn't you like this book? why do you hate books, karen? it's not even like that, dude - it was a good book, i just don't think i am the best judge of it, is all, and for some reason, it has left me with nothing to say. -who would be the best judge of it? see, ordinarily i would say greg. it has th i read this a couple weeks back, but i haven't been able to write a review for it. i didn't know wtf to say about it then and i don't know wtf to say about it now. so instead, i will interview myself: -why didn't you like this book? why do you hate books, karen? it's not even like that, dude - it was a good book, i just don't think i am the best judge of it, is all, and for some reason, it has left me with nothing to say. -who would be the best judge of it? see, ordinarily i would say greg. it has this hipster sci-fi vibe to it - aimless thirty-somethings caught up in a tech-conspiracy situation, with spies and self-reflection, and it has been compared to john le carre, philip k. dick, jonathan franzen, thomas pynchon, david foster wallace, william gibson, chuck palahniuk, don delillo, -that's a lot of comparisons i know, right?? and the response has been pretty enthusiastic - so but anyway, interrupting cow, ordinarily i would have said "greg will like this, because he likes all of those authors," but he read it and was also underwhelmed. but it is so "his" kind of book, on paper. -so would you say you are shitty at readers' advisory or do you just not know your best friend at all? nice. thanks. no, i think i am very good at readers' advisory, and i know greg pretty well, but i guess in this instance, i was wrong. -did you get him a birthday present yet? no. shut up. i'm working on it. -if you say so. so, what didn't work for greg? umm, well since he's not really writing reviews anymore, i guess i can speak for him. i know he had a problem with the names. -the names? yeah, the code names the revolutionary people used, like "seymour butz" and "paige turner." he thought it was a little twee and faux-pynchony. i didn't have a problem with that, but i'm not a pynchon fan, so it's not even something i would notice. for me, i think the major problem was how long it took to get going. it's a 400-plus page book, told from three different viewpoints, and the characters don't even start coming together until nearly halfway through. -but you love sprawling narratives, haven't you read infinite jest, like, 7 times? yeah, but with that one, i was in love with each and every storyline. with this one, the only character i really loved was leo. his chapters were always really funny and moving. this one was more like reading A Game of Thrones, you know? how when you get to a cat pov chapter, you are like zzzzzzzzMOAR TYRION!! i was really invested in leo's storyline, but the other two were what i had to endure to get back to the one i loved. -oh, like odysseus enduring his trials to get back to penelope? no, more like penelope enduring the tedium of other suitors in order to hook up with odysseus again. -yeah, but she wasn't "getting back" to him, she stayed put. jesus christ, so it's an imperfect analogy, what is your problem? -this is your book review - not my fault you aren't good at this anymore. true, true. so anyway - i don't know. i certainly didn't hate this book - when all the characters eventually meet up, it becomes more enjoyable and the pacing is quicker. plus, there is an interlude involving the daily jumble that i enjoyed, and an "armless genius." -the armless genius sounds particularly dfw-inspired. yup, i thought that, too. so, yeah, i liked this book, but i am also completely the wrong audience for tech/big data/global conspiracy thrillers. plus - the e-version i had was a little messed up, with some paragraphs duplicated and some distracting typos, and i was on vacation at the time, so it might be a case of "wrong circumstances under which to read this book." -so, when this book becomes a bestseller that everyone loves, this is going to be your excuse?? not that you are wrong, but that you were - what - distracted? this is why no one likes you. it's a strong debut novel, and people will probably love its timely, snowdenian flair -not a word BUT ANYWAY, it might just be more of a "boy" book, with its themes and its increasingly-beautiful and desirable female lead. -you are going to get a lot of shit for that "boy book" comment. people on goodreads get real huffy when you make gender-assumptions. ugh, i don't even care. this book reads a little "lad" to me, is all. and (view spoiler)[it has one of those ambiguous nonendings that is also very dfw, but is kind of bummer after investing so much time to a story that seems to be building to a climax that never comes. (hide spoiler)] so, yeah. an ambitious debut which mashes up the spy thriller, the sci-fi near-future paranoia rant, and the conspiracy novel, with some floundering-emo characters to hash it all out. -that is a terrible blurb. INTERVIEW OVER. KAREN OUT. i hope you are going to go buy greg a birthday present come to my blog!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kemper

    This book has been compared to the likes of Thomas Pynchon, David Foster Wallace, Don DeLillo, Philip K. Dick, Neal Stephenson and Chuck Palahniuk. I don’t think that’s doing it any favors because while it isn’t bad, it never got close to those guys at their best for me. This is essentially one of the fusions in which the author mixes Serious Lit-A-Chur with the DNA of a genre novel which in this case is a conspiracy-cyber thriller with a little sci-fi for flavor. Leila is a Persian-American work This book has been compared to the likes of Thomas Pynchon, David Foster Wallace, Don DeLillo, Philip K. Dick, Neal Stephenson and Chuck Palahniuk. I don’t think that’s doing it any favors because while it isn’t bad, it never got close to those guys at their best for me. This is essentially one of the fusions in which the author mixes Serious Lit-A-Chur with the DNA of a genre novel which in this case is a conspiracy-cyber thriller with a little sci-fi for flavor. Leila is a Persian-American working for a non-profit NGO in Myanmar when she accidently stumbles on something that triggers the wrath of an operative of a worldwide shadow government. Mark and Leo were friends in college, but their lives have taken them on very different paths. Mark is a bullshit artist who lucked his way into fame and fortune by becoming a self-help guru who advises an uber-wealthy Mr. Burns type of asshole. Leo is an underachieving slacker whose substance abuse kicks his paranoia into overdrive. Circumstances make all three of them aware of a sinister plot involving on-line data collection that is getting taken to a new terrifying level. And of course there is an underground group trying to stop it. The thing here is that anyone hoping for a conspiracy novel probably isn’t going to be satisfied. Yeah, there are some cool moments, and the evil plan is impressive in its scale as well as its feasibility, but there are no big action scenes of note. Instead the focus is on the thoughts and feelings of the three leads as they examine what they find lacking in their own lives even as they have to deal with the moral choices the situation forces on them. I was far more intrigued by the personal stories and history of Leila, Mark and Leo than I ever was by the conspiracy storyline which, while ambitious, is still at its heart a secret-group-of-powerful-rich-assholes-try-to-take-over-the-world story. In fact, I probably would have liked this book a whole lot more if Shafer had just skipped the conspiracy and done a whole book about the three main characters somehow meeting up and interacting. I know that the conspiracy was symbolic, representing the way that some will willingly give up secrets and freedom for a comfortable life, but it kept reading as if were to be taken as seriously like this was a Tom Clancy novel. The clichés of the conspiracy thriller are here, but they don’t feel deconstructed or satiric. That made my brain keep thinking that there would be a car chase or a shootout at the usual places even though I knew that wasn’t the kind of book Shafer wrote. So the whole thing ended up in a weird one-foot-in/one-foot-out state for me in which I felt like the book was too character driven to be an entertaining genre thriller, but the conspiracy thriller aspects distracted me from the much better character angles as well as some of the broader points he was trying to make. Also posted at Kemper's Book Blog.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jenne

    Oh my god, you're going to just end it there?? WTF Oh my god, you're going to just end it there?? WTF

  4. 4 out of 5

    Greg

    I think if I had read this book a couple of years ago I would have liked it more. My witty little thought about this book was, this is sort of what Pynchon might write if he wrote a minor novel about the internet, oh but wait Pynchon just published his own minor novel about the internet in the past year. It's good and deserving of the buzz that shot up around it when it was released. For me it was too much in the DFW/Pynchon with a bit of Cryptonomicon era Neal Stephenson thrown in but without th I think if I had read this book a couple of years ago I would have liked it more. My witty little thought about this book was, this is sort of what Pynchon might write if he wrote a minor novel about the internet, oh but wait Pynchon just published his own minor novel about the internet in the past year. It's good and deserving of the buzz that shot up around it when it was released. For me it was too much in the DFW/Pynchon with a bit of Cryptonomicon era Neal Stephenson thrown in but without the sprawling epic like feel of those writers. This might make no sense but it feels like what a two hour movie version of one of their novels would probably feel like if Hollywood ever made one of them into a block-buster. It is fun though. It's got a hipster vibe to some of it. There are conspiracies and a manic-pixie-dreamgirl and underachievers who make good in the world. In other words its an bookish boy adventure book. Please don't let my review dissuade you from trying this. My tastes for this kind of book have been lukewarm lately and it's all my fault. I've just been more into rural appalachian type books and novels and stories written by former Marines about Iraq (who knew that there were so many who could write so well?) But, this has been getting lots of accolades from people who probably have a better feel for this type of book these days than me.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Nick

    It's probably not all David Shafer's fault. Somewhere along the way some nefarious publisher probably told him that no one would shell out for a 900 page novel, even if it was well-written and populated with engaging characters. Or maybe someone told Shafer that his talent was so obvious that readers would be helpless to resist picking up the inevitable sequels, and so there was no real need for this intro volume to have a story or any kind of meaningful conclusion. But here's the thing: no matte It's probably not all David Shafer's fault. Somewhere along the way some nefarious publisher probably told him that no one would shell out for a 900 page novel, even if it was well-written and populated with engaging characters. Or maybe someone told Shafer that his talent was so obvious that readers would be helpless to resist picking up the inevitable sequels, and so there was no real need for this intro volume to have a story or any kind of meaningful conclusion. But here's the thing: no matter how well you turn a phrase or how genuinely sympathetic your characters are, in a book, something needs to happen. There needs to be a beginning, a middle, and an end which leaves the reader with some sense that even if not all threads have been resolved, that some kind of catharsis has nonetheless been reached. As a reader, I want to be left wanting more because the writer has created something worthwhile and engaging; not because the writer has fundamentally failed to provide any kind of arc. Someone asked me what this book was about when I was only about twenty pages into it, and I couldn't provide an answer--the blurb on Amazon was too vague. A few hundred pages later I know why: there's no plot. And while I'm sure there will be a follow up (probably two, because everything needs to be trilogized these days), I won't bother with it.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Caroline

    Many reviews of WTF reference a list of lauded authors whose styles seem to be in the soup of this book - a dash of Pynchon, a touch of Foster Wallace. I didn't know that when I started reading it, as I'd picked it up on the strength of a friend's recommendation, plus one line of a NY Times review that said it was a late contender for 'book of the summer'. But sure enough, as I was reading, I was quickly thinking 'ah, this is like a mix of Zadie Smith (in NW3), Gary Shteyngart (Super Sad True Lo Many reviews of WTF reference a list of lauded authors whose styles seem to be in the soup of this book - a dash of Pynchon, a touch of Foster Wallace. I didn't know that when I started reading it, as I'd picked it up on the strength of a friend's recommendation, plus one line of a NY Times review that said it was a late contender for 'book of the summer'. But sure enough, as I was reading, I was quickly thinking 'ah, this is like a mix of Zadie Smith (in NW3), Gary Shteyngart (Super Sad True Love Story), Don DeLillo (White Noise)'. And it's an enjoyable mix, if you're willing to go on the ride. The plot is sort of bonkers, sort of not; sort of humorous, sort of not. Shafer isn't trying to be overtly literary in style, but the prose has depth - there are clever turns of phrase that made me pause and enjoy the words as well as the plot. And just like SSTLS, it has left some questions in my mind about the right way to live online life. I was interested to see that it's been pegged so strongly by some as a Boy Book. I don't know about that. I'm a woman, and it felt like a pretty cross-gender contemporary novel to me, with a balance between interesting characters and strange car chases (if we're going to be wildly stereotypical about female/male preferences). That duality might be why some reviewers felt the book only got going halfway through, and there's no doubt that it accelerates almost unnervingly beyond a certain point, switching from 'hmm, intriguing' to 'whoa, thriller'. Personally, I enjoyed it all, from those early character expositions to the pacy bombast, and I liked watching the plot weave reveal itself. The midpoint shift reminded me a little of other mongrels I'd enjoyed, like Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five. There were a couple of places where the writing felt a little deliberate - I remember multiple evocative similes describing a man half in and half out of a too-small sleeping bag, where a single one would probably have been more powerful. But those moments were forgiveable and few. When I finished the book, I agreed with many other reviewers in feeling the ending was a bit of a squib. That docked the book's rating by half a star for me, but not by more than that given the rest of the book's pleasures. And - especially with a few weeks of reflection - I do think it was smarter of the author to write a character-focused ending rather than a wildly bombastic denouement, which I'm sure he could have done equally well. I liked the fact that he took us back to the human heart of the narrative. So it's an odd book, such a smorgasbord that it might be hard to follow other people's advice about whether you'll like it or not. I certainly thought it was a good read (so to speak), and am missing its craziness now that I've finished it. For balance, my next book should probably be a historical novel set before the telephone was invented. [Update: I came back to this review to upgrade the rating from a fulsome 4* to a 4.5/5*, because I couldn't stop talking about the book for 2 weeks after reading it, and because in retrospect I can't see any other way the book could have ended without being trite. And my next book was indeed a historical novel without telephones: The Sisters Brothers. Also very good indeed.]

  7. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    A solid four-star read, marked by good writing (often funny), and a sprawling narrative that makes you want to keep reading to see how all the disparate stories connect. The book occasionally suffers, however, from being overly glib, and not really plumbing many depths of its characters--not really taking many risks. But sometimes that's exactly the kind of book you want. I did enjoy it. A solid four-star read, marked by good writing (often funny), and a sprawling narrative that makes you want to keep reading to see how all the disparate stories connect. The book occasionally suffers, however, from being overly glib, and not really plumbing many depths of its characters--not really taking many risks. But sometimes that's exactly the kind of book you want. I did enjoy it.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    “Curiously refreshing” * Added Dec 2014 14 WTF on "best of 2014" lists Daily Beast http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles... Time magazine http://time.com/3595139/top-10-fictio... NPR http://apps.npr.org/best-books-2014/#... Slate http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/bo... Kirkus https://www.kirkusreviews.com/issue/b... Sarah's bookshelves http://www.sarahsbookshelves.com/book... shortlisted (one of 15) for Pacific Northwest Booksellers Assoc http://www.pnba.org/awards/2015/Award... Publisher's Weekly “Curiously refreshing” * Added Dec 2014 14 WTF on "best of 2014" lists Daily Beast http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles... Time magazine http://time.com/3595139/top-10-fictio... NPR http://apps.npr.org/best-books-2014/#... Slate http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/bo... Kirkus https://www.kirkusreviews.com/issue/b... Sarah's bookshelves http://www.sarahsbookshelves.com/book... shortlisted (one of 15) for Pacific Northwest Booksellers Assoc http://www.pnba.org/awards/2015/Award... Publisher's Weekly 2014 starred reviews Mystery/Thriller http://www.digitalpw.com/digitalpw/be... N.B. Reviewer is author's Dad As a classic thriller, this wonderful book is wanting. No grisly "hook" murder on page 1. No sadistic villain or metal-mouthed Igor to do the wet work. No underground chamber. No body bulldozed up this morning after twenty years. No drill on how to buy a false passport or wire plastique. No sheer terror, actually. WTF hums without these requisites, its suspense powered by menace, not mayhem. This leaves room for lightness, tangents, amusing asides foreign to verismo thrillers. Its comic elements, like a car chase that stalls on the up ramp in a parking garage or a bicycle-meets-street-grating accident, make it a caper more than a thriller. There is still an overarching fear grounded in possibility: that one for-profit organization could capture, organize and store all traffic on the internet. This long essay by Mike Lofgren "The Anatomy of the Deep State" http://billmoyers.com/2014/02/21/anat... suggests it's not a remote possibility but a perhaps a reality. An interview with Edward Snowden's legal advisor https://www.guernicamag.com/interview... corroborates this. However palpable the spectre may be, though, the book is more about characters and character than cyber-threats. To relish it, we need not decide whether the threats are actual, imminent, or science fiction. The plot has too much whimsy to fit in verismo thrillers, but its three strands, each a life, are braided together as the book goes on. Braided is the word, not the tight intricate weave desired in a classic thriller. In Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, plot is only a vehicle for two other elements that make this book so much fun to read. The plot is salad greens, dressed and tossed optimally by style and character development. The language is arresting on page after page. Dialogue is realistic and entertaining. The characters become our friends, though at different paces. Late in The Great Gatsby is the line, remember it? “They were careless people.” This book is about two careless men who become caring with the catalyst of a good woman in a seriocomic crucible. A test of how much someone truly liked a book is how soon he or she wants a second go. I read this book with even more pleasure for the second time four months after the first (pre-pub) time; the writing is that good and the comedy blossoms. A plus to a second helping of WTF is to savor the ending, which to some readers is too acute, even truncated. Careful reading brings into focus a full, and I may say classical, resolution, of two key elements. Can’t say more here. Read carefully. Think heroically. *phrase used without permission of the trademark holder. Commander Whitehead wouldn’t mind.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Miranda

    I tried to avoid commenting on Whisky Tango Foxtrot for fear of sounding like a plant (the author, David Shafer is my brother) but I decided to wade in. It's clear that he doesn't need my plug on Goodreads but here it goes. WTF is a bright modern thriller, but if the idea of reading a book about a corporate cabal is not quite your jam then let me just say that there are many layers to this book. The book is about feeling lost in your 20's / 30's, it's about "the prickly but adamantine love betwee I tried to avoid commenting on Whisky Tango Foxtrot for fear of sounding like a plant (the author, David Shafer is my brother) but I decided to wade in. It's clear that he doesn't need my plug on Goodreads but here it goes. WTF is a bright modern thriller, but if the idea of reading a book about a corporate cabal is not quite your jam then let me just say that there are many layers to this book. The book is about feeling lost in your 20's / 30's, it's about "the prickly but adamantine love between siblings.* " It's about addiction. There's also a love story in there. * I grabbed that quote from this salon.com review http://www.salon.com/2014/07/27/whisk...

  10. 5 out of 5

    Eric

    I decided to read this after seeing Lev Grossman recommend it here. While I enjoyed this slow burning, globetrotting conspiracy thriller that followed three captivating, well-written lead characters, I have to note three specific things that may or may not influence others' decisions to read it:1. This book is to Neal Stephenson what methadone is to heroin. While I understand the comparisons that others have made, and see them myself -- especially with the tendencies towards maximalism -- this i I decided to read this after seeing Lev Grossman recommend it here. While I enjoyed this slow burning, globetrotting conspiracy thriller that followed three captivating, well-written lead characters, I have to note three specific things that may or may not influence others' decisions to read it:1. This book is to Neal Stephenson what methadone is to heroin. While I understand the comparisons that others have made, and see them myself -- especially with the tendencies towards maximalism -- this is just not on the same level as Reamde, Stephenson's most similar novel thematically. 2. About half way through the novel, certain science fiction elements were introduced that may strain the limits of plausibility to the reader (view spoiler)[Specifically, the "eye test" (hide spoiler)] , especially considering the lack of any foreshadowing. 3. This novel either a) has the most abrupt and ambiguous ending of any book I've ever read, or b) is setting up for a sequel. Since I cannot find any information about a second book, I have to assume it is the former. I know this will be a deal breaker for some people, and didn't thrill me either, as it felt like the author wasn't committed enough to take his ideas to their ultimate conclusion.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Lance Charnes

    If there was such a genre as "slacker cyberpunk," Whiskey Tango Foxtrot would firmly fit inside it. You might also find it on the "rehab science fiction" or "literary conspiracy drama" shelves at B&N. Repeated mentions of Edward Snowden on the back cover might lead a harried stockperson to shelve it in the "post-privacy politics" section. This is both the charm and the downfall of this novel; it's neither fish nor fowl, neither literary nor genre, neither serious nor sendup. For all this, it's no If there was such a genre as "slacker cyberpunk," Whiskey Tango Foxtrot would firmly fit inside it. You might also find it on the "rehab science fiction" or "literary conspiracy drama" shelves at B&N. Repeated mentions of Edward Snowden on the back cover might lead a harried stockperson to shelve it in the "post-privacy politics" section. This is both the charm and the downfall of this novel; it's neither fish nor fowl, neither literary nor genre, neither serious nor sendup. For all this, it's not hard to sum up the concept: three youngish Americans of various levels of slackerhood run afoul of a Secret Global Conspiracy(TM) to privatize all of the world's data and crash the public Internet so the SGC can sell to the cat video-starved masses the services of a private Internet. (Yes, this is supposed to still be fiction.) Our heroes connect with the digital underground and try to derail the SGC's plans. Hilarity ensues. The author's voice is spry and witty, and he knows his way around a paragraph. His dialog is just so for the various characters -- although all Our Heroes are perhaps a bit too literate and arch -- and his settings are lightly sketched but with enough shading to allow us to build a good-enough mental picture. (Some familiarity with Portland, Oregon is helpful.) The tone is light enough that you'll figure the author wasn't taking this all that seriously, and perhaps neither should you. This isn't a bad thing; some more ludicrous thrillers I've read took themselves very seriously, which made them unintentionally more funny. Here the laugh lines are deliberate. Despite the sprinkling of terms like "techno-thriller" and "comic thriller" on the dust jacket, this isn't really a thriller, even though it has some of those trappings (the occasional car chase, secret agents, the global cabals and counter-cabals, assassins, and so on). Nothing especially exciting happens, there are no action set-pieces, and even the ticking clock is more a vague presence than an actual thing. The author's more interested in the main characters' backgrounds and day-to-day dramas than in setting up or running a traditional thriller. Whether this approach works for you depends on how well you can engage with the main characters. Of these, NGO operative Leila is the most together, energetic and directed of the three -- at the expense of having an actual life, of course, which I understand isn't unusual for global-aid workers. Mark is a drug-addled fake self-help guru and Leo is a drug-addled trust-fund Portlandian with a highly checkered employment history. Both male leads are regularly overmatched by real life and are mostly defined by the controlled and uncontrolled substances they overindulge in. Leila got me through this; I couldn't bring myself to care about either of the men, who worked very hard to squander what good fortune they had. Having dealt with real addictive personalities, I'm less than enchanted by the ultimately egotistical hijinks of fictional ones, especially when I'm supposed to root for them as protagonists. About the ending: yes, it's abrupt, and yes, it robs us of any closure. Maybe that's the literary part of this novel poking its head above the surface; maybe the author couldn't make up his mind whether he wanted to offer us hope or despair and left us with limbo instead. YMMV. No matter what you expect, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot may leave you partly entertained and somewhat puzzled. The title itself is military phonetic alphabet for "WTF" -- and we all know what that means. For once, the book delivers what the title promises.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lena Cox

    I’d like to pull up a chair in David Shafer’s brain and sift through his thoughts that led to the creation of Whisky Tango Foxtrot. The tale rattles the brain out of apathy, prying the eyes open to stare at the on-coming headlights of future societal organization. It’s the type of story that will have you agreeing that signing up for a Prepper’s Camp is a good idea. If coupled with Alena Graedon’s Word Exchange, there’s a chance you’ll go off the grid entirely. Whisky Tango Foxtrot deals out mode I’d like to pull up a chair in David Shafer’s brain and sift through his thoughts that led to the creation of Whisky Tango Foxtrot. The tale rattles the brain out of apathy, prying the eyes open to stare at the on-coming headlights of future societal organization. It’s the type of story that will have you agreeing that signing up for a Prepper’s Camp is a good idea. If coupled with Alena Graedon’s Word Exchange, there’s a chance you’ll go off the grid entirely. Whisky Tango Foxtrot deals out modern day issues like a poker player on a winning streak: Is the nation-state dead? Will corporations reorganize societies into fiefdoms? Will giving away our personal data on Facebook be the ruin of our economic futures? Are we being monitored by governments and corporations to support dictatorial schemes? If the description invokes a sort of PTSD of poli-sci classes, the classes that warped each second into an hour, I’ve misled you. Shafer knits the heavy with the light. His wit and turn of phrases remind me most of author Jonathan Tropper’s style of writing. Whisky Tango Foxtrot twists together three lives into a caper both poignant and fun. Leila Majnoun, the main character, is mired in Myanmar/Burma schlepping for an NGO when she runs across a suspicious event. The plot’s trigger point shoots when Leila jots off an email to her friends about what she saw. The missive cannons an avalanche of events that endanger herself and her family while inadvertently entangling Leila in an evil versus good caballing to reorganize society. Leo Crane, a savant with bi-polar tendencies, bikes to work because surrendering the drink is too much to bear. When Leo’s not working, he links together several global and corporate events into one heck of a conspiracy theory, a theory he shares via his blog, an action that lands him in a recovery institution. Mark Deveraux vomits corporate mysticism to proletariat who dream of a higher purpose in their work. If you’ve ever read a substance-less business leadership book full of trite adages, you’ve read something akin to what Mark produces. His trail to fame began with the writing of a business-thought book sponsored by SineCo corporation, one of the corporations Leo marks in his blog as trying to manipulate the world. The two gentlemen collide with Leila through a series of events primarily focused on Leila’s struggle to clear her family’s name. The uniting of the trio culminates in each character choosing paths that will eventually affect the structure of society. Shafer’s descriptions palpitate scenes. When describing Leila’s ceiling fan in her Myanmar flat, he writes “…it whorled and kerchonked around at such an unstable and idiotic rate that what it gave in breeze it took back in worry.” Throughout the book Shafer bends language into universally relatable concepts such as when Leo first enters the recovery institution: “Leo was sitting on another piece of disempowering institutional furniture, a too-low, too-high-sided, tautly upholstered chair that encouraged surrender.” Who hasn’t sat in furniture just like this, but without the precise words to describe it? My notes covered sixteen typed pages, most filled with sentences like “The rest of the world just avoided this place, as on the street you’d avoid a stinking, pantsless drunk – because where would you even begin?” I loved Shafer’s words as much as I loved his story. Data privacy, corporate totalitarianism, globalization, modern colonialism, and socialism boil in the pages of Whisky Tango Foxtrot. I recommend you grab a copy of the book, ladle into the soup Shafer’s so artfully whipped up, and, after you read the last line, meet me at the Prepper’s Camp. ~originally reviewed at pagecravings.com

  13. 4 out of 5

    Ross Mckeen

    This is the book I wanted Dave Eggers' "The Circle" to be. The perils of big data and megalomaniacal corporations stripping us of privacy and ...well, pretty much taking over the world. This book is 100x better, starting with the three protagonists who are well written characters. Part of it takes place in Portland (where the author now lives) so you even get a chase scene that ends up in the Powell's parking garage. I would have given it 5 stars had it not been for the abrupt and incomplete end This is the book I wanted Dave Eggers' "The Circle" to be. The perils of big data and megalomaniacal corporations stripping us of privacy and ...well, pretty much taking over the world. This book is 100x better, starting with the three protagonists who are well written characters. Part of it takes place in Portland (where the author now lives) so you even get a chase scene that ends up in the Powell's parking garage. I would have given it 5 stars had it not been for the abrupt and incomplete end that feels like a setup for a sequel. I don't mind ambiguous endings, but this felt incomplete . I could have read another 200 pages.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Terence M (often away with the pixies)

    Audiobook - 15:13 hours - Narrator: Bernard Setaro Clark 0.0 stars out of 5.0 After about five hours I gave up. One critic said the novel was supposed to be "darkly comedic", but for me it was a waste of five valuable listening hours and certainly not "comedic". As my GR friend Alan commented "Just did not see the point" - nor did I. Audiobook - 15:13 hours - Narrator: Bernard Setaro Clark 0.0 stars out of 5.0 After about five hours I gave up. One critic said the novel was supposed to be "darkly comedic", but for me it was a waste of five valuable listening hours and certainly not "comedic". As my GR friend Alan commented "Just did not see the point" - nor did I.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Mernitman

    I rarely review, but seeing some reviews - especially on Amazon - I felt the need to counter what seems to be a pervasive misrepresentation of the book. IT HAS AN ENDING. And in my view, it's a perfectly acceptable, even appropriate one. <* No spoilers *> In the novel's final chapters, Shafer lays out exactly what needs to happen in order to bring the story to its logical conclusion. The actions-to-come are so explicit, in fact, that the author - wisely, I believe - has chosen to observe an age-o I rarely review, but seeing some reviews - especially on Amazon - I felt the need to counter what seems to be a pervasive misrepresentation of the book. IT HAS AN ENDING. And in my view, it's a perfectly acceptable, even appropriate one. <* No spoilers *> In the novel's final chapters, Shafer lays out exactly what needs to happen in order to bring the story to its logical conclusion. The actions-to-come are so explicit, in fact, that the author - wisely, I believe - has chosen to observe an age-old storytelling rule: get out early. Rather than play out what's been set up, he leaves it to the reader to imagine where things ultimately go. Yes, it's ambiguous, in that a less optimistic reader might believe things don't turn out well. But by leaving the final period off the sentence, so to speak, Shafer brings us back to ourselves and the world we're actually living in, slyly suggesting that the book's battle between good and evil is still an ongoing, unresolved matter... as indeed, it is. To me, this was a perfectly viable conclusion, one very much in keeping with the story's sensibility. And simply by noting, as I read the final pages in hard copy, that there literally wasn't page space left to end the novel in a conventional way, I found that my slight disappointment in not having everything tied up neatly gave way to an amused enjoyment of the choice Shafer made (Kindle readers may have been more dramatically brought up short). I think a fair assessment of the book is to say, "It has an unconventional ending." And that's certainly no deterrent to experiencing what remains, in my opinion, a thoroughly entertaining read.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Michael Martz

    This book was maddening. The first half was great, the 2nd drug on a bit and then....poof. The author takes a current tech trend (Big Data) to an extreme, pitting a good side against a bad side for what amounts to world domination. There are Gen Xers, evil business people, drugs, an international charity, monolithic computing power, sex, strange processes, and Lord knows what else involved. The writing is excellent, the dialogue great, and the story interesting. What's not to like? Well, when yo This book was maddening. The first half was great, the 2nd drug on a bit and then....poof. The author takes a current tech trend (Big Data) to an extreme, pitting a good side against a bad side for what amounts to world domination. There are Gen Xers, evil business people, drugs, an international charity, monolithic computing power, sex, strange processes, and Lord knows what else involved. The writing is excellent, the dialogue great, and the story interesting. What's not to like? Well, when you're reading a physical (hardback) book and the pages remaining are dwindling to the point where there are just a few left, and you know that what's been laid out in the story could take another, oh, couple hundred pages to come to some sort of conclusion, and it just peters out.... that's what not to like. When I review books, I look at writing, dialogue, plot, character development, and conclusion, and WTF was great on all counts except for the conclusion. You know how a movie may end abruptly, but you actually kind of know what's going to happen because it's been baked into the plot? Well, that doesn't happen here. It ends and it's anyone's guess that happens to the guy who could save humanity. Or not. Loved the writing, loved the technology stuff (both real and imagined), but WTF?

  17. 5 out of 5

    Michael Creal

    A terrific read. Not only is this book beautifully written, it is filled with suspense and a special kind of humour. At the center of this spy thriller is a battle against a group pursuing its goals through an incredibly sophisticated surveillance system. It's so close to contemporary reality that it's scary. For that reason it's more than just a spy thriller. An open ending leads us to wonder not only what will happen to one of the central characters but what will happen to our own world. A terrific read. Not only is this book beautifully written, it is filled with suspense and a special kind of humour. At the center of this spy thriller is a battle against a group pursuing its goals through an incredibly sophisticated surveillance system. It's so close to contemporary reality that it's scary. For that reason it's more than just a spy thriller. An open ending leads us to wonder not only what will happen to one of the central characters but what will happen to our own world.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Nicole Overmoyer

    There’s a lot to say about David Shafer’s WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT. First and most simple is that it is a novel that makes the reader think. It requires the reader to pay attention and to work at following the story. Any reader that does this will be rewarded, I promise. Second is that the story is about three people; Leila Majnoun – a Persian-American humanitarian aid worker with a NGO in Burma, Leo Crane – the slightly off-kilter son of a board game fortune who likes pot and alcohol more than he s There’s a lot to say about David Shafer’s WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT. First and most simple is that it is a novel that makes the reader think. It requires the reader to pay attention and to work at following the story. Any reader that does this will be rewarded, I promise. Second is that the story is about three people; Leila Majnoun – a Persian-American humanitarian aid worker with a NGO in Burma, Leo Crane – the slightly off-kilter son of a board game fortune who likes pot and alcohol more than he should, and Mark Devreaux – the accidentally famous author of a self-help book who really could read a few more of those books himself. There are tiny hiccups with the characters. The first part of the novel is dedicated to Leila and she is the ideal character on which to base a story. She’s strong and sassy and determined. She’s doing charitable work when her parents wanted her to go to medical or law school, marry a rich man, and give them grandchildren. Leo is the lovable goof of the story. At the start, he works in a day care center where he invents a game called Rolling Death. Is there anything more adorable than a guy working with kids too young for kindergarten and playing Rolling Death with them? No. Leo’s paranoia, only partially enhanced by copious amounts of pot, gets him in trouble and then in rehab. By a stroke of luck, some of his paranoia proves absolutely true. The way he deals with that revelation proves that the lovable goof can also be the dependable rock in life. Mark got high and/or drunk and wrote a blog somebody liked. So they gave him a book deal (which every would-be writer is jealous of) to write a self-help book. This proves that fools get all the luck and he gets a fancy patron in one of the richest men in the world. The hiccup is that I’d read a whole book about Leila, Leo was good enough, and I could’ve done without Mark entirely. But I think that’s how it was meant to be. The main plot of the story is intriguing and alarming. It’s sort of like the popular dystopian novels – it’s fiction but it’s so close to a possible reality that it’s a little unnerving. For example, after reading Shafer’s book, I can assure you that I am now wholeheartedly against Google Glasses. And I’m looking at things I post online (like this review) with an even healthier sense of skepticism and the feeling that someone – not necessarily the government but a cabal of filthy rich people on fancy yachts – is spying on me for nefarious purposes that they rationalize as entirely legitimate and helpful to little old me. I love dystopian novels, though, and I love WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT too. WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT is available for purchase in print, ebook, and audio form now. (I received a copy of WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT through NetGalley in return for an honest and original review. All thoughts are my own. This review will be posted on NetGalley, Goodreads, and my blog.)

  19. 5 out of 5

    J

    The NY Times called this the book of the summer in 2014. True for me. This one fell in the read-at-every-opportunity category. The characters are brilliant and drawn from their own rich emotional life, rather than from superficial description. What I liked best--along with the plausibility of some techno-data schemes--was the discovery of the plot via the characters. There's some mind-bending stuff going on in this book, and at times the mind-bending stuff is cast in a memorably surreal light, a The NY Times called this the book of the summer in 2014. True for me. This one fell in the read-at-every-opportunity category. The characters are brilliant and drawn from their own rich emotional life, rather than from superficial description. What I liked best--along with the plausibility of some techno-data schemes--was the discovery of the plot via the characters. There's some mind-bending stuff going on in this book, and at times the mind-bending stuff is cast in a memorably surreal light, as with a chase scene involving a dude shaped like an onion (and riding a Segway, no less). If you liked Thomas Pynchon's Bleeding Edge, this is a nice follow-on. Here are some spoiler-free bits that stuck with me: "And what about for the first eight, ten years of his life, when loving parents encouraged his obsession with dragons and secret worlds and animals in vests who poured tea and drove motorcars and who gave him to read Tolkien and Susan Cooper and the Brothers Grimm and Madeline L'Engle and C.S. Lewis? Is a boy supposed to leave his imagination on the side of the road when he boards the bus to manhood?" "But now he was doing that thing he did when a waitress recited the specials -- he was trying too hard to pay attention, so he was paying attention to paying attention, not to what was going on." " '[Straw] has that basketball team, and he's always endowing business schools and that sort of malarkey.' " ". . . there was a zing in the air, the kind produced when subjugated staff members move swiftly through corridors." " 'Sure. Sure. The writer,' said Cole, as though *writer* were a funny antique job, like falconer." [Mark Deveraux's mother to him when he was a boy, on the subject of the Lincoln Memorial] " 'There's lots and lots of great people -- and women too, not just men -- who don't get statues, who live faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.' " [Of a hotel in a desolate suburb] "The lobby plants needed dusting." As for all the chatter about the ending, I think that's a matter of taste. My opinion: Artfully done.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jonah Gibson

    A dense, disturbing techno thriller, full of incisive social commentary, satyrical humor, and humanity. There is no ending in the traditional wrapping up of loose ends and concluding the narrative kind of way. If this is the kind of thing that bothers you, you should probably give this book a pass. Personally, I think the way it doesn't actually end is a large part of the point, and it worked rather well for me. There are three main characters with interwoven plot threads, and Shafer goes back a A dense, disturbing techno thriller, full of incisive social commentary, satyrical humor, and humanity. There is no ending in the traditional wrapping up of loose ends and concluding the narrative kind of way. If this is the kind of thing that bothers you, you should probably give this book a pass. Personally, I think the way it doesn't actually end is a large part of the point, and it worked rather well for me. There are three main characters with interwoven plot threads, and Shafer goes back and forth among them throughout the book. They are richly drawn and entirely believable. The plot had a couple of holes, I thought, but the dynamics were so well wrought that I hardly noticed. It was only in thinking about what had happened well after I'd read it, something I did a lot, that slight gaps became evident. So it's not perfect, but it's damn close. The best thing for me was the lush prose, rich as a red velvet cake, so satisfying that I couldn't keep reading late into the night even though I wanted to. I needed time to digest before I could continue. On balance, I loved this book. It's the best thing I've read this year and I highly recommend it.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Raymond Maxwell

    Read this over the holidays after hearing Nancy Pearl's review/recommendation. Not surprised it made everybody's top ten list. This book has lots of groovy ingredients: a tight but winding plot; human characters with real issues who actually "grow" during the course of the novel; a plausible conspiracy theory; a snapshot of millenials' life for history. I saw different layers that maintained the suspense: "Leila" means night in arabic and "Majnoon" means crazy, loco, insane; "Jack" Straw was edu Read this over the holidays after hearing Nancy Pearl's review/recommendation. Not surprised it made everybody's top ten list. This book has lots of groovy ingredients: a tight but winding plot; human characters with real issues who actually "grow" during the course of the novel; a plausible conspiracy theory; a snapshot of millenials' life for history. I saw different layers that maintained the suspense: "Leila" means night in arabic and "Majnoon" means crazy, loco, insane; "Jack" Straw was education, home and foreign minister over a period of time when I lived in London; Crane is a bird with a long neck and a machine for building tall buildings; Devereux is a blend of Oprah, Dr. Phil, and any TV evangelist in the 20 teens (pick your favorite). "Burma" is North Korea. I would recommend this book to my friends and would definitely recommend it for the university library where I work.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Adrian White

    I don't know about you but I like my thrillers to thrill, my entertainments to amuse, and my social commentary to tell me something I don't already know. The first half of this book was too ponderous before it really got going. Yes, we had to be introduced to the three main characters but the common feature of each of these were that they struggled with the world to the extent they thought themselves as losers. The fact that it's these losers who will save the world from the evil corporations an I don't know about you but I like my thrillers to thrill, my entertainments to amuse, and my social commentary to tell me something I don't already know. The first half of this book was too ponderous before it really got going. Yes, we had to be introduced to the three main characters but the common feature of each of these were that they struggled with the world to the extent they thought themselves as losers. The fact that it's these losers who will save the world from the evil corporations and governments is an interesting twist but not that interesting. Don't get me wrong: I enjoyed this book, but if I was to compare it to, say, Nick Harkaway's The Gone-Away World then it just doesn't match up in any way.

  23. 5 out of 5

    David

    A huge tech company - a merge of Facebook, Apple and Google perhaps - seeks to capture everyone's data and then sell it and all other data in a New Alexandria. The Dear Diarists seek to stop this. Enter a group of typical folks from 2014 with their angst, irony and confusion. Mix all of this up and a really good slice of life comes through. Whether or not the Diarists foil the plot is beside the point. Someone 100 years from now wondering what life was like in 2014 would do well to read this boo A huge tech company - a merge of Facebook, Apple and Google perhaps - seeks to capture everyone's data and then sell it and all other data in a New Alexandria. The Dear Diarists seek to stop this. Enter a group of typical folks from 2014 with their angst, irony and confusion. Mix all of this up and a really good slice of life comes through. Whether or not the Diarists foil the plot is beside the point. Someone 100 years from now wondering what life was like in 2014 would do well to read this book.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Josh Mann

    This was a bit of a slog for me and pretty underwhelming. Some neat concepts and solid characters...but too many slow spots and the ambiguity just was a total turnoff. I do think it gained momentum about 200 pages in which is what pushed me to finish it, but with no payoff I feel a little cheated.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Pamela

    The unnerving feeling of encountering writing that reflects your mind's reflexively clever, self-doubting patter. The unnerving feeling of encountering writing that reflects your mind's reflexively clever, self-doubting patter.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jed L

    There are times when I will fly through a book, devote large amounts of time to it, stay up late, neglect other projects or chores to finish. And with such zeal you would think I would be enjoying the book. But sometimes that isn't the case. I am flying through the book just to finish it, to get to the end, to see if the author is going to be able to pull himself out of the mess that he made. That was my experience with this book. I flew through it, gobbled it up and when I was finished looked b There are times when I will fly through a book, devote large amounts of time to it, stay up late, neglect other projects or chores to finish. And with such zeal you would think I would be enjoying the book. But sometimes that isn't the case. I am flying through the book just to finish it, to get to the end, to see if the author is going to be able to pull himself out of the mess that he made. That was my experience with this book. I flew through it, gobbled it up and when I was finished looked back and realized I had read a really bad book. There are so many things wrong with this book, but I'll keep my criticism relatively short. My first complaint is Shafer's inability to maintain his style and plot points. Shafer writes this book from the point of view from three different characters, Mark, Leo and Leila. That is fine, it is kind of routine for writing these days, but it is fine. What irked me was when toward the beginning of the book he threw in a fourth point of view, Ned. Where did he come from? We hadn't seen anything about him before? We didn't see him again until the very last few pages. His whole narrative was only put in to provide a way out of a stuck plot position. Basically lazy writing. Shafer chose a particular style and then just abandoned it when it was convenient. It was distracting and confusing and unnecessary. Some creativity and time could have fixed the problem. And the lazy writing doesn't stop there. Shafer continually contradicted himself for the sake of moving the plot forward and getting out of trap in the story. For example, one of the main characters, Leo, is supposed to be really awkward socially, unable to really make or establish friendships. He is described as a loner and recluse. Yet, on multiple occasions when the characters are in a difficult situation magically Leo has a friend in the perfect position to help him out. This friend (who we had never heard of or seen before) comes to the rescue, provides the aid needed, and then disappears leaving the reader wondering "Who was that, What just happened?" As far as the plot itself goes, aside from its contradictions, is OK. The story is mildly interesting as it focuses on privacy concerns and large scale data gathering. But there are far better books about that topic. Dave Egger's The Circle is far superior to this claptrap. Especially because this book, which for the most part is relatively grounded in reality, branches out into some LSD conspiracy theory ideas and mushroom based computer physics which Shafer never fully explains and expects the reader to just role with. As a final criticism is the ending. Bad, lazy writing and an average plot can be redeemed if the story has a solid resolution. Really good writing can have abstract endings with unresolved plots and vague interpretations. But this wasn't good writing. So it needed all the bows and strings to be tied up and at least make it look presentable and pretty. Instead, this book ends abruptly. There is zero context of what might happen. None of the answers are provided to the many questions presented. So as a reader you go on this long, arduous, literary journey (really the book could have been cut in half if the main characters had talked and moped and whined to themselves less) only to find that at the end you are left holding nothing but a deflated balloon in your hands. I do not recommend this book. It just isn't very good. If you are interested in a book about large corporations and governments secretly combining together to gather data and use it for nefarious purposes read The Circle. (PS) Even the title is a really, really lazy poor choice. The title comes from basically an aside at the very end of the book. (And yes, I get the acronym it represents, but unless it is a commentary about itself it isn't anything but lazy again). It is never referenced before, nor after. It just pops up randomly. Is basically ignored by everyone but somehow is deemed worthy of being the title? Yeah.... just another major flaw in a pretty bad book.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Earnest Thompson

    Everyone, it seems, has a big-data-takes-over-the-world book in 'em so we all better wise up and smell the corporate coffee lest we give every last bit of our personal info to the company store and pay w/ our lives and freedoms. Or something like that. The CyberFi genre seemed more ominous a few years ago when William Gibson came out w/ his novel start ups. Last year, Dave Eggers gave us a terrifying blend of google and Facebook in The Circle but the characters seemed drawn from either the cast Everyone, it seems, has a big-data-takes-over-the-world book in 'em so we all better wise up and smell the corporate coffee lest we give every last bit of our personal info to the company store and pay w/ our lives and freedoms. Or something like that. The CyberFi genre seemed more ominous a few years ago when William Gibson came out w/ his novel start ups. Last year, Dave Eggers gave us a terrifying blend of google and Facebook in The Circle but the characters seemed drawn from either the cast of "Friends" or those earnest looking folks on the movie The Interns. Pynchon also took a shot at cyber shenanigans w/ the Bleeding Edge's Maxine Tarnow, a Cagney (or was in Lacey) in the Deep Web. Whew! So how's this any different? The characters. Full stop. They're drawn in 3D and remind you of the 30-something single people you know (or are), not just the folks on Portlandia. We start w/ Leila, or is it Lola, the single NGO maven in Myanmar who's savvy, bold and pretty funny. In other chapters, we meet Leo, a trustafarian sort who needs detox and direction, and Mark, a self-help author and speaker w/ a nebulous connection to the big data bad guys. Is he with 'em or agin 'em? And so the chapters go, tumbling toward a rousing finale that somehow involves all three. Maybe. But you'll love the characters and their families filled w/ know-it-all siblings & parents w/ troubles of their own. Just like yours. As much fun as the characters are, the author (David Shafer) also has a good sense of the comic and playful. You gotta love lines like “Then his pot dealer cut him off. Out of concern! Like pot dealers are bound by the Hippocratic oath.” We lose a star for some noodling and nodding off mid book but this is a solid recommendation for a good read that seems ripped from the NSA and Edward Snowden headlines. Your paranoia is still well placed but WTF suggests that there lives among us the kinda folks who give us hope for the future.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Patrick

    O.K., so what just happened. Oh, yeah, I finished WTF. This book starts out like a pretty standard version of the typical sci-fi techno-thriller. There have been quite a few books in this vein -- see the books of Daniel Suarez ("Daemon", "Freedom-TM," "Influx etc".) or later Neal Stephenson (Cryptonomicon, Reamde) or Ernest Cline's "Ready Player One." Dave Eggers's "The Circle" is probably in the same category. Top secret rich-guy cabal wants to control our data, maybe kill off all the normals, O.K., so what just happened. Oh, yeah, I finished WTF. This book starts out like a pretty standard version of the typical sci-fi techno-thriller. There have been quite a few books in this vein -- see the books of Daniel Suarez ("Daemon", "Freedom-TM," "Influx etc".) or later Neal Stephenson (Cryptonomicon, Reamde) or Ernest Cline's "Ready Player One." Dave Eggers's "The Circle" is probably in the same category. Top secret rich-guy cabal wants to control our data, maybe kill off all the normals, while a hardy band of folks battles them. More or less. And this starts out that way, with some interesting characters -- three of them -- in some tough situations from Myanmar to Portland. There are some humorous observations of how we live now, with thinly disguised versions of Google, Facebook, Apple. Around page 200, this all takes a really weird turn. I'm not saying I didn't like the turn, but it propelled the novel beyond genre into something that you will either find to be fascinating or fun, or baffling. I don't want to spoil it. I will warn genre fans that the book has literary ambitions and an unresolved ending. You may have to fill in sone plot elements near the end on your own. There are some twists that are far-fetched and perhaps not entirely consistent with earlier parts of the book, but I must admit I have not reviewed them. Anyway. It is a worthwhile read. The comparisons to Pynchon, Wallace and others are overblown, but it goes down easy, despite some lack of polish in the writing here and there. Enjoyable. Worth picking up. I was pulled in and kept going until I was done, and I didn't want it to end, because I wanted to see some of the more interesting ideas developed. That is all.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth Shafer

    As the author's mother, I have a special need to write an objective review, which is hard! So I'll focus on my enjoyment of details such as Leo's references to Riverside Drive, Mark's to London, and my impression that each character, in the manner of fiction, may contain traits or traces of the author. I also enjoy descriptions of the Majnoun family, particularly the interactions between mother and daughter. But most of all, I'm impressed by the author's description of the characters' efforts to As the author's mother, I have a special need to write an objective review, which is hard! So I'll focus on my enjoyment of details such as Leo's references to Riverside Drive, Mark's to London, and my impression that each character, in the manner of fiction, may contain traits or traces of the author. I also enjoy descriptions of the Majnoun family, particularly the interactions between mother and daughter. But most of all, I'm impressed by the author's description of the characters' efforts to counter a growing menace: the misappropriation of all information by media giants in collusion with corporate interests. This sounds eerily like a description decades ago by Richard Falk about a desired 'globalization from below' by groups like Amnesty International, contrasted with 'globalization from above' by multinational corporations. Are we solving or paradoxically perpetuating this dichotomy now by our tweeting, blogging, and other potential pitfalls of 'oversharing'? The author doesn't address this question nor mention names of media giants like Rupert Murdoch or his agent Rebekah Brooks, nor politicians with corporate ties like Dick Cheney. But figures like these lurk in the background of the book with sinister resemblances to members of The Committee. They are ready to pounce with incursions on our individual privacy and artistic freedom, and the author warns us of this in his deft, light, non-polemic style.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Beth Jusino

    WTF could try to take itself seriously, with all of its end-of-civilization cyber-thriller scenarios, and its multi-cultural cast of heroic characters, and its slip into the dark corers of mental illness and substance abuse. But instead of leaning into them, it leans back into a haze of disaffection and pot smoke, and takes itself--and the reader--an an over-the-top ride that pushes the boundaries of ludicrous. Maybe it's not ambitious after all. Instead of being a book about Big Things, it succe WTF could try to take itself seriously, with all of its end-of-civilization cyber-thriller scenarios, and its multi-cultural cast of heroic characters, and its slip into the dark corers of mental illness and substance abuse. But instead of leaning into them, it leans back into a haze of disaffection and pot smoke, and takes itself--and the reader--an an over-the-top ride that pushes the boundaries of ludicrous. Maybe it's not ambitious after all. Instead of being a book about Big Things, it succeeds as the clever story that a guy tells you in a bar when he's a little bit drunk and unreliable, but just lubricated enough to be utterly entertaining. He's got cluttered tangents and embellishments and little bits of story that get forgotten along the way. But Shafer writes great characters, and he knows them deeply. Even the tiny, almost-irrelevant-to-plot bit characters are unforgettable. And he has enough well-placed plot twists and card tricks to keep me turning pages. And yes, I believe this was exactly the ending the book was meant to have, and isn't the setup for a sequel. (But if there is I really hope we see more of Leila's mother and Leo's rehab roommate.) SOmetimes last call happens before all the loose ends get tied up.

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