Sunday, March 27, 2022

The Candy House

The Candy House by Jennifer Egan
4/5/22; 352 pages

The Candy House by Jennifer Egan is a very highly recommended imaginative novel of our world, but different. The story is told through an interlocking narrative structure by multiple and inter-generational characters. This novel is brilliant! 

Remember: Nothing is free! Only children expect otherwise, even as myths and fairy tales warn us: Rumpelstiltskin, King Midas, Hansel and Gretel. Never trust a candy house! It was only a matter of time before someone made them pay for what they thought they were getting for free.

Bix Bouton is a wildly successful tech giant of Mandala. What he is searching for now is eluding him; he is seeking a new idea or advancement. When he encounters a conversation group meeting after a talk at Columbia, he joins while disguised and finds the direction his next advancement will take.  "Own Your Unconscious" allows people to download their memories giving them access to every memory they have ever had. They are stored in a Mandala Cube. This evolves into the ability to upload your memories to "the Collective Consciousness" which then gives you access to the thoughts and memories of everyone in the world who has also shared with the collective. 

Millions are seduced, but not everyone. There is a problem that emerges about what to do with so much information. Additionally, not everything or every story needs to be told. There is a counter group of "eluders" who understand the temptation of the candy house and  resist it while "counters" are those who track and exploit the measurable tendencies of people.

This is an ingenious, brilliantly written novel, technically accomplished and stylistically masterful. The three parts of the novel are titled: Build, Break, Drop. The chapters are all like interconnected short stories that build the narrative and plot through the voices of a variety of characters and narrative styles. Chapters range from omniscient to first person plural to a duet of voices, an epistolary chapter, an exchange of emails and a chapter of tweets. Characters from A Visit From the Goon Squad (2010) reappear here, but The Candy House is a stand-alone novel.

The characters and their children are all developed as complex individuals as the novel covers a large span of time. The voices and points-of-view of the characters are all unique. The advancement of the plot is told through the voices of all these characters in the unique chapters. It is impressive how the narrative threads in each chapter begin to coalesce to create a complex plot and compelling accomplished novel. I am in awe. One of the best books of the year!

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Simon & Schuster via NetGalley.

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