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

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Overview

"Cosmic and comic, full of philosophy, mysticism and celestial whimsy. Both profoundly wild and wildly profound." 
—Charles Yu, author of How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe

In the not-too-distant future, competing giant fast food factions rule the world. Leonard works for Neetsa Pizza, the Pythagorean pizza chain, in a lonely but highly surveilled home office, answering calls on his complaints hotline. It’s a boring job, ...

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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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Overview

"Cosmic and comic, full of philosophy, mysticism and celestial whimsy. Both profoundly wild and wildly profound." 
—Charles Yu, author of How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe

In the not-too-distant future, competing giant fast food factions rule the world. Leonard works for Neetsa Pizza, the Pythagorean pizza chain, in a lonely but highly surveilled home office, answering calls on his complaints hotline. It’s a boring job, but he likes it—there’s a set answer for every scenario, and he never has to leave the house. Except then he starts getting calls from Marco, who claims to be a thirteenth-century explorer just returned from Cathay. And what do you say to a caller like that? Plus, Neetsa Pizza doesn’t like it when you go off script.
           
Meanwhile, Leonard’s sister keeps disappearing on secret missions with her “book club,” leaving him to take care of his nephew, which means Leonard has to go outside. And outside is where the trouble starts.
          
A dazzling debut novel wherein medieval Kabbalists, rare book librarians, and Latter-Day Baconians skirmish for control over secret mystical knowledge, and one Neetsa Pizza employee discovers that you can’t save the world with pizza coupons.

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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.”
New York Times Book Review

“[A] dizzying fabulist debut.”
Washington Post

“Ultimately, more than incantations and codes, it’s family Cantor cares about. A Highly Unlikely Scenario is about just that: Familial wisdom and love lost and found and shared anew, finally, conquering all.”
Daily Beast

An io9 pick for the Essential Science Fiction and Fantasy Books of 2014

“[Cantor's] imagination is exhilarating — A Highly Unlikely Scenario will appeal to fans of sci-fi and people who just like to laugh.”
Cosmopolitan’s 10 Books by Women You Have to Read This Spring

“A treat for those who like zippy sci-fi paced like the stories of Kurt Vonnegut.”
Time Out New York

“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

“The book’s plot, which concerns a future where fast food corporations run the world, is deliciously weird enough to work in its own warped way, walking the line between straight fantasy and fiction.”
Flavorwire

A Hall of Fame Bestseller in The Millions

One of Liberty Hardy's (RiverRun Bookstore) Must-Read Books from Indie Presses for 2014, on Book Riot

“A heroic tale unlike any other: a novel that is not about a quest but about learning that the world—our world—is full of extraordinary, mysterious wonders."
Kenyon Review

“This debut novel is a present to both sci-fi and humor fans alike.”
Barnes & Noble Book Blog, January indie books roundup

“In this roller-coaster debut, fast-food corporations rule the world and a peon customer-service worker has to save it... Cantor is in control of her material, and successful dystopian satire makes more sense while you’re lost in it."
Heeb, Best Books of the Year

“Brooklyn-based writer Rachel Cantor has created a whole new world in her debut novel — a humorous and playful science fiction story.”
Brooklyn Eagle

“Delightful… The sense of excitement in Cantor’s prose, which propels this familiar story of a few silly, frightened people braving their way through a maddening, baffling world, is what compels us to keep reading.”
The Rumpus

A Book of the Week pick from WORD bookstore on Largehearted Boy

“An intrepid debut.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Cantor suspends disbelief and creates a loony world entirely of her own, which is terrifically funny and effortlessly enjoyable… Highly entertaining and adventurous.”
Publishers Weekly

“[A] rambunctiously smart, pun-spiked, and sweet dystopian romantic comedy… Cantor’s funny and charming metaphysical adventure and love story is a wily inquiry into questions of perception, knowledge, mystery, legacy, and love.”
Booklist

“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

“The great pleasure of such novels is the world-building, in which the author invents a new universe while playfully commenting on our own. And what Cantor does of this is great, her impish prose and dry wit perfectly suited to the task.”
The Telegraph (UK)

“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

Kirkus Reviews
2013-12-15
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: 977,914
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 7.40 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

RACHEL CANTOR was born in Hartford, Connecticut, and raised in Rome. She worked for jazz festivals in France and food festivals in Australia before getting degrees in international development and fiction writing. Her short stories have appeared in The Paris Review, One Story, Kenyon Review, Fence, and other publications. She has received fellowships from Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, the Millay Colony, the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, and elsewhere, and has been a scholar at the Bread Loaf, Sewanee, and Wesleyan Writing Conferences. She lives in Brooklyn.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 19, 2015

    Dont waste your money

    Started out great-then went downhill. Unless you are Jewish, it makes no sense. And I am not. I did not understand at all

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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