A Highly Unlikely Scenario, or a Neetsa Pizza Employee's Guide to Saving the World: A Novel

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A Highly Unlikely Scenario, or a Neetsa Pizza Employee's Guide to Saving the World: A Novel

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Lydia Netzer
There's a coldness to whimsy that sometimes creeps into books of this stripe. All the wackiness can seem a bit mechanical and contrived…ultimately soulless. Happily, A Highly Unlikely Scenario does not get bogged down in such empty displays of dexterity. While Cantor delights in strangeness and demonstrates a rakish disregard for sense, she's not wallowing in nonsense, nor is she dishing up whimsy just for whimsy's sake. At the center of the book, her hero is real, and his problems feel urgent…By layering the ridiculous inventions of her mind with the ridiculous facts of the world, Cantor creates a novel about being incredulous and certain at the same time, about listening without judgment, about acting on faith…A dystopian satire; a story about storytelling, believing and listening—A Highly Unlikely Scenario is ultimately a history of our own strange world.
Publishers Weekly
★ 12/23/2013
Leonard is an exemplary "Listener" in his job manning complaints hotline for the Pythagorean pizza chain, Neetsa Pizza. He is satisfied working from home, and has not ventured outside in over three years. His sister Carol says the world is broken, but Leonard's chooses to believe "bits of the world might be damaged, but never permanently so," and makes it "his mission, through Listening, to heal some part of it." Everything changes with a call from Marco, an imprisoned explorer returned from Cathay who refuses Leonard's pizza coupons and forces him to deviate from his safe, calculated responses. Cantor's wildly inventive debut novel is a mix of the comical and mystical, in a future ruled by fast-food conglomerates run by competing, antiquated sects. When Carol leaves Leonard with her son to attend missions with her book club, Leonard must finally leave the comforts of home to face the tumultuous world outside. Rife with deadpan humor and memorable characters mixed with time travel and supernatural powers, Cantor suspends disbelief and creates a loony world entirely of her own, which is terrifically funny and effortlessly enjoyable. This highly entertaining and adventurous tale will leave readers rooting for Leonard to save the world, with or without his coupons. (Jan.)
From the Publisher
“A dystopian satire, a story about ­storytelling, believing and listening—A Highly Unlikely Scenario is ultimately a history of our own strange world.”
—The New York Times Book Review

“Cantor’s first novel never takes an obvious turn when a stranger one might do and the result is a plot that bounces, soap-bubble like, above a world that is equal parts absurdity and whimsy…the whole thing has the air of a fable translated from a very foreign language.” io9

"Rachel Cantor joins the ranks of authors who are able to turn philosophical concepts into whiz-bang plots, and make them funny as well. Throw in some family dysfunction, time travel, a librarian ingénue, and the possible destruction of the world, and you’ve got an adventure story replete with nerdy delights.” Tor

It’s as if Kurt Vonnegut and Italo Calvino collaborated to write a comic book sci-fi adventure and persuaded Chagall to do the drawings. One of the freshest and mostly lively novels I have encountered for quite a while.” 
Jim Crace, author of Harvest and The Pesthouse

"A Highly Unlikely Scenario is a joyful book, full of the energy of undiluted invention and the thoughtful imagination of a writer to watch. It's a wild ride and much more—funny, intelligent and entirely pleasing." 
A.L. Kennedy, author of Day

"Cosmic and comic, full of philosophy, mysticism and celestial whimsy. A story of listening, of souls and bodies, that is at once both profoundly wild and wildly profound." 
Charles Yu, author of How to Live Safely in  a Science Fictional Universe

“Part Italo Calvino, part Ray Bradbury, in this extraordinary novel, Rachel Cantor explores questions of self-knowledge, true love and family, all while saving the world—and winning readers—in the past, present, and future.”
Hannah Tinti, author of The Good Thief

"A sharp, witty, and immensely entertaining debut... Cantor's skill in rendering complex and highly believable characters makes for an unexpectedly moving tale."
Emily St. John Mandel, author of The Lola Quartet

"I didn't know I needed a mystical Jewish Douglas Adams in my life, but Rachel Cantor is it, and her Guide makes me shep naches every time I turn a page. Buy this book, bubeleh! It will surprise you in ways large and small, and it will fill you with delight."
—Emily Barton, author of Brookland

"[A] rambunctiously smart, pun-spiked, and sweet dystopian romantic comedy... Glimmering with 'signs and wonders' and laced with satirical jabs at technological intrusiveness and deception, Cantor’s funny and charming metaphysical adventure and love story is a wily inquiry into questions of perception, knowledge, mystery, legacy, and love."

"Cantor’s novel will be a great hit for fans of Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe. There’s a lot going on here, and all of it is amusing."
Library Journal

One of Barnes and Noble's "7 Books for fans of George Saunders": "Cantor’s characters, including unlikely possible prophet and pizza-chain employee Leonard, his supernaturally powerful nephew, and the woman Leonard loves, are as earnest as Saunders’ in their attempt to live good, meaningful lives in a broken society."

Kirkus Reviews
A man from the future explores the past through his heritage in this quirky metaphysical adventure. This is an intrepid debut from frequent short story contributor Cantor, but any reader without an encyclopedic knowledge of Jewish mysticism may wish to come armed with an open Wikipedia page. Meet Leonard--Leonard works in the complaints department of Neetsa Pizza, in a futuristic world where global commerce is dominated by fast-food chains. Leonard works in a clean room in his home answering the phones, chatting occasionally with his sister Carol, babysitting his nephew Felix and asking questions of the "Brazen Head," a contemporary version of the medieval automaton reputed to be able to answer any question. Because all of this isn't odd enough, Leonard suddenly can only get calls from "Milione," an explorer from the 13th century who nightly describes his travels to the Orient. Next, a stranger begins leveling some serious history onto Leonard, a man who oddly speaks with the voice of Leonard's dead grandfather but who identifies himself as the kabala scholar Rabbi Yitzhak Saggi Nehor, known colloquially as Isaac the Blind. It's fair to say that the average reader could easily be a quarter of the way into Leonard's adventure in space and time before realizing he or she is deeply mired in a witty but quite eccentric exploration of Jewish mysticism. For being a rather petite book, it lures in an array of historical figures ranging from Abraham Abulafia, the founder of Prophetic Kabbalah, to Marco Polo to the English philosopher Roger Bacon. It's an unusual way to examine Jewish history and medieval thinking, but the story doesn't carry enough weight to justify the experiment. Leonard makes for an amusing protagonist, and Cantor makes some salient points about passing on generational wisdom, but it doesn't completely work as satire, science fiction or farce. This play on history and heritage plunges headlong into the mystic, but it's written for a very niche market.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781612192642
  • Publisher: Melville House Publishing
  • Publication date: 1/14/2014
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 294,175
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 7.40 (h) x 0.80 (d)

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