Blueprints of the Afterlife

Blueprints of the Afterlife

4.2 4
by Ryan Boudinot
     
 

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From the “wickedly talented” (Boston Globe) and “darkly funny” (New York Times Book Review) Ryan Boudinot, Blueprints of the Afterlife is a tour de force.

It is the Afterlife. The end of the world is a distant, distorted memory called “the Age of F***ed Up Shit.” A sentient glacier has wiped out most of

Overview


From the “wickedly talented” (Boston Globe) and “darkly funny” (New York Times Book Review) Ryan Boudinot, Blueprints of the Afterlife is a tour de force.

It is the Afterlife. The end of the world is a distant, distorted memory called “the Age of F***ed Up Shit.” A sentient glacier has wiped out most of North America. Medical care is supplied by open-source nanotechnology, and human nervous systems can be hacked.

Abby Fogg is a film archivist with a niggling feeling that her life is not really her own. She may be right. Al Skinner is a former mercenary for the Boeing Army, who’s been dragging his war baggage behind him for nearly a century. Woo-jin Kan is a virtuoso dishwasher with the Hotel and Restaurant Management Olympics medals to prove it. Over them all hovers a mysterious man named Dirk Bickle, who sends all these characters to a full-scale replica of Manhattan under construction in Puget Sound. An ambitious novel that writes large the hopes and anxieties of our time—climate change, social strife, the depersonalization of the digital age—Blueprints of the Afterlife will establish Ryan Boudinot as an exceptional novelist of great daring.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Boudinot???s ingenious second novel (after Misconception) takes readers on a frenzied, hilarious, and paranoid trip through a hypernetworked near future. The story takes place after an apocalypse known as the FUS, or “the age of Fucked Up Shit” (which includes a monstrous war between humans and androids called “newmans,” fought by branded armies such as Pfizer and Boeing using weaponry made by Nike, Coca-Cola, and other companies). The story unfolds from the perspective of characters for whom post-FUS reality is, at best, in flux. They hallucinate. They encounter a giant celestial head and extraterrestrials who alter the already unmanageable courses of their lives. They’re genetically engineered and can erase troubling memories, but can’t escape feeling troubled. Implants allow a biological Internet (Bionet) to provide medical care remotely, wirelessly downloading “hormones, enzymes, and antigens” directly into the body. This also opens the door to radical hacking by “DJs” who, when they grow tired of their victims, can leave them on autopilot, sometimes dooming them to compulsively watch reality television as sadistic as its present-day incarnation but far more surreal. On one level, the afterlife is a video game that may be, entirely or partially, the creation of a delusional computer programmer who knows that it’s not a game. At times Boudinot writes with more exuberance than clarity, and some questions or threads are never answered or fully explored, resulting in sloppiness that may frustrate some readers. But those who are drawn in by the wonderful Woo-jin Kan, the world’s best dishwasher, won’t want to put the book down until they’ve devoured the last line. Like replaying a game, familiarity enhances recognition of what’s important, and the first chapter is worth rereading in light of what follows, if only to put into better perspective its ending call: Help me! A bracing dystopian romp through contemporary dread, extrapolated. (Jan.)
From the Publisher

Praise for Blueprints of the Afterlife

“A fierce literary imagination, building the kinds of worlds that William Gibson used to write before he discovered the present; it is warmed by the kind of offbeat, riffing humor that has suffused the works of Neal Stephenson and Gary Shteyngart, with Chuck Palahniuk’s cartoonish gore and Neil Gaiman’s creepy otherworlds blended in. . . . Duct-tape yourself to the front of this roller coaster and enjoy the ride.”—John Schwartz, The New York Times

“What an inspired mindfuck of a book. Ryan Boudinot’s Blueprints of the Afterlife is a post-apocalyptic satirical explosion of a novel. . . . Fans of China Mieville, Kurt Vonnegut, and, say, Terry Gilliam may gravitate toward Boudinot, but his out-of-control imagination is all his own.”—Andrea Appleton, Baltimore City Paper

“The best science fiction takes what we know about technology and humanity and extends it. . . . Blueprints of the Afterlife does just this—only instead of space stations and robots, [Boudinot] clocks the way our perceptions and experiences have already been shaped by technology. . . . Blueprints calls to mind Jonathan Lethem’s recent Chronic City and the work of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, as much as it does sci-fi predecessors like Philip K. Dick or even Cory Doctorow. But while it's plenty easy to find other novels to compare Blueprints to, the book offers a completely singular reading experience.”—Alison Hallett, The Portland Mercury

“Digital where Brave New World is merely analog, Blueprints of the Afterlife makes both 1984 and the Book of Revelation seem like yesterday's news.”—Tom Robbins, author of Even Cowgirls Get the Blues

“Boudinot’s novel . . . has a diverse and rich family of ingredients. We might speak of certain literary components, such as the work of Kurt Vonnegut, the work of Richard Brautigan, the work of Tom Robbins, and/or the work of Haruki Murakami. . . . A mere description of ingredients, however, fails to take into account the transformative process of reading Blueprints of the Afterlife, whose howls of dissatisfaction with what American culture is (for such is almost all speculative fiction) are kaleidoscopic, provocative, in-your-face, restless, sad. . . . Blueprints of the Afterlife, somewhat in the style of the earlier novels of Thomas Pynchon, also has a manifest content that is often unpredictable, imaginative, and bittersweet, and a latent content . . . which is there for the perusal of those who take their time. . . . To read this novel is to feel keenly the dystopian future, especially the digital future of the Pacific Northwest; to be entertained and delighted; to be driven down into successive layers of complication and paradox, each more satisfying than the last.”—Rick Moody, The Believer

“Take every high voltage future-shock you can imagine about life as it’s shaping up in the twenty-first century, process it through one of the smartest and funniest and weirdly compassionate sensibilities you’ll find on this crazy planet at this crazy moment, and you get a novel named Blueprints of the Afterlife. This guy Ryan Boudinot is the WikiLeaks of the zeitgeist.”—Robert Olen Butler, author of Hell

“Ryan Boudinot . . . writes like the bastard son of Philip K. Dick, William S. Burroughs and Aldous Huxley. . . . Blueprints is both dire prophecy and biting commentary on the modern world.”—Josh Davis, Time Out New York

“The novel hilariously dumps pop culture into a blender with futurism and presses purée.”—Anne Saker, The Oregonian

Blueprints of the Afterlife exists in a shining lineage that extends right back ultimately to William Burroughs’s Naked Lunch, the novel that taught us all how to conflate esoteric conspiracy theory with history with lowbrow pop culture with surrealism and absurdity with transgressive assaults on propriety and the bourgeoisie. . . . Boudinot’s novel, with near-Neal Stephensonian intricacy and panache, is a brave attempt to forecast the ‘afterlife’ subsequent to our culture’s imminent, nigh-inevitable collapse. Yet it’s no preachy tract, but rather a glorious carnival of errors, terrors, and numinous possibilities.”—Paul Di Filippo, Barnes & Noble Review

Blueprints of the Afterlife is chewy with a delighted disgust, and suggests those myths of the near future—to adopt JG Ballard's trope—that are really truths about right now.”—Will Self, author of The Book of Dave and Walking to Hollywood

“An ambitious book in the spirit of Kurt Vonnegut and David Foster Wallace … Boudinot’s short stories are dense, acerbic little gems, but Blueprints is the first glimpse we get at the loopy, sci-fi-nerd-fueled landscape he’s had inside his brain all this time.”—Paul Constant, The Stranger

“There’s a brilliant aliveness to this book, a joyful throwing together of extrapolated pop culture, really cool ideas about medicine and technology, a preapocalyptic vision of the current world and a bizarrely livable postapocalyptic afterworld, and a near total lack of genre boundaries. . . . It’s hard to describe, but it’s easy to read, easy to get involved with. . . . Do not fight this book: Let it take you where it’s going, and let it show you what it wants to show you. You’ll be glad you did.”—Samantha Holloway, New York Journal of Books

“A mind-bending tour of the edges of technology and possibility . . . densely imagined, frightening and hilarious.”—Charles Yu, author of How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe

“Ryan Boudinot . . . is my new favorite author. . . . Blueprints of the Afterlife reads a bit like a genetic graft between David Foster Wallace’s The Broom of the System and Mark Leyner’s My Cousin, My Gastroenterologist. Blueprints of the Afterlife is a book that I will unequivocally press into the hands of any who approach me for a recommendation in 2012.” —Mark Flanagan, About.com Contemporary Literature

“It is incredibly fun to watch Ryan Boudinot unspool his cool, twisted imagination in Blueprints of the Afterlife. Someone should warn him not to give away fantastic ideas at the frantic rate he does. But then again, he might have an infinite supply.”—Steve Hely, author of How I Became a Famous Novelist

“I figured I would like the book. I didn’t figure it would be as expansive, as imaginative, as powerful, and as quaking as it is. Seriously. It’s awesome.”—Matthew Simmons, HTMLGiant

“Wildly imaginative, smart, funny, and hopefully not prophetic, Blueprints of the Afterlife brings to mind Vonnegut, and finds Boudinot at the top of his game as a young writer to watch.”—Jonathan Evison, author of West of Here

“Ryan Boudinot once again proves himself as one of America's most talented young writers. . . . Dark, funny, and smart, this post-apocalyptic dystopian book is as complex as it is original and entertaining.”—Largehearted Boy (online)

“[A] blistering wunderkammer. . . .The world has, once again, come to an end, but if that’s become a cliché, Ryan Boudinot seems to have flung his arms in the air and yelled let ‘em come.”—Ashley Crawford, 21C Magazine (online)

“What happens when the technology we unleash through the Internet becomes our physical reality, and we become its content? . . . The sheer imagination with which Boudinot’s tale unwinds is stunning. . . . You could orgasm with laughter.”—Alle C. Hall, PLOP! Blog (online)

“Boudinot goes all in with a Murakami-inspired fit of speculative madness that marries the postmodernist streak of Neal Stephenson to the laconic humor of The Big Lebowski. . . . Challenging, messy and funny fiction for readers looking for something way beyond space operas and swordplay.”—Kirkus Reviews

“The absurdities are cleverly crafted and highly entertaining. Imaginative [and] heartfelt.”—Hannah Calkins, Shelf Awareness (online)

“Ingenious… frenzied, hilarious, and paranoid. . . A bracing dystopian romp through contemporary dread.”—Publishers Weekly

“Ryan Boudinot's Blueprints of the Afterlife is probably the strangest post-apocalyptic novel in ages.”—io9 (online)

“Boudinot infuses the story with . . . humor that recalls Philip K. Dick.”—Ron Hogan, USA Character Blog (online)

Kirkus Reviews
It's the end of the world as we know it, and everyone feels a bit out of synch with their surroundings. After getting his feet wet with a collection of comic short stories (The Littlest Hitler, 2006) and ruminating on youth in revolt in his debut novel, Boudinot (Misconception, 2009) goes all in with a Murakami-inspired fit of speculative madness that marries the postmodernist streak of Neal Stephenson to the laconic humor of The Big Lebowski. It starts in the future and, par for the course, humanity is screwed. Survivors find themselves in a warped version of reality known collectively as "The Age of Fucked Up Shit." How bad? The continent has been raked over by Malaspina, a sentient, roving glacier and her marauding polar bears. Into this crazy-quilt scenario Boudinot introduces a semi-heroic cast. Woo-jin Kan is an Olympic medal–winning dishwasher who gets a note from his future brain instructing him to write a book called How to Love People. "It's one of the only books the Last Dude has to read, so make it really good," writes Woo-Jin's future self. Abby Fogg is an archivist who is hired by a mysterious string-puller named Dirk Bickle to deconstruct an archive of pre-FUS material, held by a former pop star named Klee Asparagus and her army of clones. Interviews with software designer Luke Piper punctuate the story, flashing back to a drug-fueled hypnotherapy session that inspired the "Bionet," a sort of social media for the mind. Some of the funniest dialogue comes from an actor named Neethan F. Jordan, whose rote descriptions of his TV series might well serve as the polar opposite of this bizarre, imaginative novel. "It's a thought-provoking series, featuring state-of-the-art effects and wall-to-wall action, with more than a little tenderness," opines Jordan. Thought-provoking, beyond a doubt. Challenging, messy and funny fiction for readers looking for something way beyond space operas and swordplay.
John Schwartz
…bracingly weird…duct-tape yourself to the front of this roller coaster and enjoy the ride…Through it all—post-apocalyptic world, or simulacrum, or whatever—Mr. Boudinot dazzles, goofs around and sends the plot curving in on itself…under it all is a fierce literary imagination, building the kinds of worlds that William Gibson used to write before he discovered the present; it is warmed by the kind of offbeat, riffing humor that has suffused the works of Neal Stephenson and Gary Shteyngart, with Chuck Palahniuk's cartoonish gore and Neil Gaiman's creepy otherworlds blended in.
—The New York Times

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780802170910
Publisher:
Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date:
01/03/2012
Edition description:
Original
Pages:
416
Sales rank:
386,702
Product dimensions:
5.58(w) x 8.52(h) x 1.18(d)

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Blueprints of the Afterlife 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm still a little confused. But I liked this book a lot, and I couldn't put it down. I'm still not sure what happened. I definitely recommend it! 
CherieReads More than 1 year ago
This is a very hard book to review. Reading this book is like reading someone else's dream in that it's completely bizarre, it jumps around, it sometimes makes no sense, but to the person dreaming it all fits together perfectly. The writing was very good and the descriptions and phrasing were amazing. This book was very dense in the way it was written but at the same time was not an altogether difficult read. It's the type of book that is enjoyable but you don't necessarily want to read another just like it right away. You need a little time to really wrap your mind around it before getting into another really "good" book. I need a little bit of fluff reading before I choose another like this one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago