It goes without saying that Jonathan Lethem is a talented author. This latest from him is without a doubt imaginative and odd, like most of his work.
The Arrest takes place in a near future in which electricity stops working. Transportation is no more. There is now way for individuals around the world to communicate, beyond seeing each other face to face.
After this tragic turn of events, Sandy Duplessis, who now calls himself the Journeyman, is living in rural Maine. His life, now simple, involves delivering food grown by his sister and assisting the butcher. But before The Arrest happened, he was a screenwriter living in Los Angeles, working with a producer named Peter Todbaum, who is a bit of a morally questionable force of nature.
Now, after The Arrest, Todbaum resurfaces in his life -- for better or worse -- after having driven clear across the country in a retrofitted tunnel-digger powered by a nuclear reactor. While those in Sandy’s community are awed by this machine -- a rare vehicle in a future in which they no longer exist, Sandy and his sister begin to question Todbaum’s motives for being there.
I always appreciate a writer who has the capacity to imagine a world unlike our own. I did find the backstory of Todbaum and Sandy interesting, as well as their strange reunification, but I felt myself distracted by what seemed to me like too much description of this semi-dystopian future.
If there was going to be so much space and time dedicated to describing the world, I wanted for a more boldly painted dystopia. There’s some interesting themes clearly being explored here through Todbaum, his contraption and people’s reactions to him, but I kept feeling lost in lengthy descriptions of the land, the new lifestyle in this area of Maine and some of the supporting characters.
Overall, I was unable to push through and finish this, and I stopped past the midpoint. At some point, I may go back and finish it, and I will definitely continue to read Lethem’s work. This one, perhaps, just wasn’t for me.
Thank you Netgalley and HarperCollins for the ARC!