by Rachel Cantor
Melville House: 1/14/2014
Trade Paperback; 256 pages
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.
A Highly Unlikely Scenario is a Recommended highly imaginative comical adventure that veers into time traveling, mysticism, and saving the world. And definitely watch the Neetsa Pizza movie that should be made from A Highly Unlikely Scenario.
In A Highly Unlikely Scenario, or a Neetsa Pizza Employee's Guide to Saving the World by Rachel Cantor we meet Neetsa Pizza employee Leonard who is employed as a listener. A listener listens to complaints over the phone and follows the proscribed script. He knows that "Clients must be relieved of their pain. It is a sacred calling to restore clients to optimal satisfaction. Pain is relieved through compassion. Compassion is best achieved in a White Room, and delivered through concentrated Listening, use of time-tested Listener algorithms, and liberal use of Neetsa Pizza coupons."
Leonard, who lives with his sister and cares for his nephew while working from home, is adapt at Listening, using the approved responses and nicknames, freely offering coupons, and meditating on the Pythagorean theory and Neetsa training material. The current world is run by fast food conglomerates. Leonard hasn't been out of a very limited area by his home for three years so even while his sister tries to tell him that there are problems out there, Leonard is in denial, thinking he can fix things while working for Neetsa Pizza from his white room. Listening is the perfect job for him, or rather it was until the day when his calls stopped coming in and instead of complaints he found himself talking to a strange man who is imprisoned, somewhere, and all of Leonard's training isn't working.
While there were parts of A Highly Unlikely Scenario that I enjoyed and found humorous, I began to lose interest in it half way into the novel. I'm sure that I'm likely not the target audience. Even though it is being compared to A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy I wouldn't have made that comparison after reading it. But what I can really see happening with A Highly Unlikely Scenario is a movie. This could be a very funny, entertaining movie.
Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Melville House via Edelweiss for review purposes.