Book Review: Thomas Pynchon's Bleeding Edge

2:04 pm

'2001. New York City. Fraud investigator Maxine Tarnow is on the case of billionaire geek CEO Gabriel Ice. Standing in her way is an array of bloggers, hackers, code monkeys and entrepreneurs, some of whom begin to show up mysteriously dead. Not to mention a drug runner in an art deco motorboat, a professional nose obsessed with Hitler's aftershave and a neoliberal enforcer with footwear issues. Will perpetrators be revealed, forget about brought to justice? Will Maxine have to take the handgun out of her purse? Will accounts secular and karmic be brought into balance? Hey. Who wants to know?'

Pynchon, Pynchon, Pynchon. One day I love you, one day I despise you.

Bleeding Edge was a task. A lot of fun, but a task. I've only read one of Pynchon's books before, The Crying of Lot 49, but the impression I get reading around him and his style is that all of his works are equally as manic, convoluted, full of references (with only half you'll actually understand), and inconclusive. I absolutely love it, but I find they're things you definitely need to be in the mood for. You don't go into Pynchon expecting an easy journey with a clear ending, you go into Pynchon for the experience.

Bleeding Edge tells the story of fraud examiner Maxine and her quest as she follows a thread starting with dodgy financial figures from a computer firm. The quest, naturally, spirals out of control and turns into one of the trippy (with or without the influence of drugs) detective stories the author is so famous for. The book is set in 2001, scattered with references to old websites, 90s alternative music, and hacker-speak, which could be quite complicated at times to people who aren't well-versed in tech terms. There's a lot of talk of the Deep Web, coding, and the 'dot com' boom. I think a lot of it you can cruise over without much understanding and still be able to follow the story, but the era and its relationship with technology does bring something else to the story. The characters are typically Pynchonian, holding various odd qualities that seem to have been picked out of a hat but make for amusing plotlines and solutions to issues brought up. Foot fetishes, Hitler-loving. Extreme sense of smell. You name it, he's written it.

I really enjoyed Bleeding Edge, despite it taking me longer than I wanted to read it, but that's probably what you should expect with Pynchon. An experience. Oh, and there's a Kenan and Kel reference that hit me right out of the blue and made me laugh one of those embarassingly explosive laughs on the train.


M x

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