A riveting novel about electricity, skateboarding, blindness, friendship, and the hope for something new. In Portland, Oregon, three high school friends — Leon, Chris, and Kayla — skateboard beneath the Burnside Bridge, study languages and classical music, and try to avoid the superficiality they witness in the world around them. The only adult they suspect might hold secrets worth knowing is Natalie — a strange, forgetful woman who hires them to illegally harvest copper wire from electrical lines outside the ...
A riveting novel about electricity, skateboarding, blindness, friendship, and the hope for something new. In Portland, Oregon, three high school friends — Leon, Chris, and Kayla — skateboard beneath the Burnside Bridge, study languages and classical music, and try to avoid the superficiality they witness in the world around them. The only adult they suspect might hold secrets worth knowing is Natalie — a strange, forgetful woman who hires them to illegally harvest copper wire from electrical lines outside the city. The three friends become intrigued by Natalie: her odd behavior, her obsession with the Playboy Playmates of 1976, the exposed wiring in her trailer, and her seeming ability to subsist on Tang and beef jerky. The more they learn, the less they understand. When a disastrous accident leads the three on an adventure through underground tunnels and into the back rooms of Chinatown, they discover a remarkable group of people who are almost impossible to recognize, yet possess unique needs and powers. And the friends are not alone in attempting to study, use, and perhaps even join the ranks of the bewildered.
Oddball teens and even odder adults people Rock's quietly mysterious latest novel (after 2001's The Ambidextrist). Bonded by their disdain of their superficial peers, 15-year-olds Kayla, Chris and Leon spend their free time skateboarding along the gray Portland, Ore., streets and stripping copper wire from telephone poles. The latter activity they perform on behalf of a very peculiar woman named Natalie, who lives in a beat-up trailer and who sells the wire to a creepy guy named Chesterton. When Leon is badly shocked on one wire-hunting trip, the adolescent trio figure they ought to get to the bottom of the project; the book's first half follows them on their pursuit of Natalie as she reconnects with Steven, a colleague from her corporate past, and indulges her pastime of dressing up like a 1976 Playboy playmate. What they can't figure out is her obsession with electricity and copper wire. Leon begins to act strangely, and the plot takes a turn for the weird when Chesterton's experiments with the wire are revealed. Rock never quite establishes the lure of the experiments to the various secondary characters, and the novel as a whole lacks tightness. But Rock does a fine job fostering a sense of foreboding in his strange world of outsider's Portland, and each member of his ensemble cast has his or her own eccentric appeal. Agent, Ira Silverberg. (Apr.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Three disaffected teenage friends spend most of their time skateboarding and musing on the shallowness of their peers and the vapidity of adults in Rock's fourth novel (after The Ambidextrist), set in Portland, OR. Then they meet Natalie, a highly eccentric woman who employs Chris, Kayla, and Leon to steal copper wire from nearby electrical lines. The trio finds the work titillating until Leon is nearly electrocuted and jolted into the same zombie-like state from which Natalie seems to be suffering. As Leon becomes isolated from the group and begins spending more time with Natalie, Chris and Kayla discover a sort of underground laboratory where people like Leon and Natalie get their "fix" in the form of voluntary shock treatments. Rock presents fresh nuances of alienation in his young characters and his depiction of teenage aimlessness is particularly accurate. But he merely dabbles with most of the adult characters, portraying them as odd or banal caricatures while creating few reasons to care about their outcomes. He also could have better developed the suspenseful parts, as when Chris and Kayla clandestinely witness the underground shock experiments, an engrossing but short-lived scene. Still, this well-wrought work is recommended for most contemporary fiction collections.-Kevin Greczek, Ewing, NJ Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Preteen wasteland meets adult psychosis under rain-swept skies. The kids aren't all right in the city of Portland, Oregon, where Leon, Chris, and Kayla-friends from being in a gifted program and, at 15, a tight trio-skateboard through the streets, imagining their classical-music-playing, non-puerile selves more advanced than the teenage hoard. A mission to direct their overabundant energies comes in the form of Natalie, a truly odd woman who hires them to strip copper wire out of power lines so she can sell it. The kids get a cut, of course. They don't really know what to make of Natalie, who lives in a trailer filled with buzzing fluorescent lights, pores over her collection of issues of Playboy from 1976 (her interest comes from some long-buried association with optimism, power, and sexuality), and has a thing about electricity. Such is the current that runs through these loosely plotted pages, especially after Leon gets badly electrocuted on a wire-stripping mission and starts acting strangely. When another adult enters the picture-Steven, who once worked with Natalie-some of her past becomes clearer, at least to the point where we know she was once a professional of some sort who then disappeared, possibly after an electrocution. As Leon's behavior turns ever more erratic and the darker elements of Natalie's plans start to be known, the kids' already antisocial tendencies ratchet up a notch, buoyed by Kayla's reading of Mishima's The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With the Sea. Rock's latest outing (after This Is the Place, 1997)-its title is the kids' name for their clique-is rather hermetic, shut off from the machinations of the workaday world, much like its neurotic little clutch ofcharacters. The story goes nowhere near where you might imagine; plot connections are left dangling; mysterious and unexplained characters drift off into the night. Yet there's a cool dread about its pages that captivates for long stretches. Elegantly paranoid but incomplete.