The Arrest

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Pub Date 12 Nov 2020 | Archive Date 05 Nov 2020

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Description

'An impeccably executed, moving, and wildly inventive tale of madness and narrative at the end of the world. Lethem is at the top of his game. ' Emily St. John Mandel, author of Station Eleven

The Arrest isn't post-apocalypse. It isn't a dystopia. It isn't a utopia. It's just what happens when much of what we take for granted - cars, guns, computers, and airplanes, for starters - stops working...

Before the Arrest, Sandy Duplessis had a reasonably good life as a screenwriter in L.A. An old college friend and writing partner, the charismatic and malicious Peter Todbaum, had become one of the most powerful men in Hollywood. That didn't hurt. 

Now, post-Arrest, nothing is what it was. Sandy, who calls himself Journeyman, has landed in rural Maine. There he assists the butcher and delivers the food grown by his sister, Maddy, at her organic farm. But then Todbaum shows up in an extraordinary vehicle: a retrofitted tunnel-digger powered by a nuclear reactor. Todbaum has spent the Arrest smashing his way across a fragmented and phantasmagorical United States, trailing enmities all the way. Plopping back into the siblings' life with his usual odious panache, his motives are entirely unclear. Can it be that Todbaum wants to produce one more extravaganza? Whatever he's up to, it may fall to Journeyman to stop him. 

Written with unrepentant joy and shot through with just the right amount of contemporary dread, The Arrest is speculative fiction at its absolute finest.


'An impeccably executed, moving, and wildly inventive tale of madness and narrative at the end of the world. Lethem is at the top of his game. ' Emily St. John Mandel, author of Station Eleven

The...


Advance Praise

'An impeccably executed, moving, and wildly inventive tale of madness and narrative at the end of the world. Lethem is at the top of his game. ' Emily St. John Mandel, author of Station Eleven

Praise for Motherless Brooklyn

'A detective novel of winning humour and exhilarating originality.' Sunday Times

'A love song to [Lethem's] native Brooklyn and full of sparkling dialogue and plot twists - a fascinating adventure.' Guardian 

'Terrific.' Time Out

'Immerses us in the mind's dense thicket, a place where words split and twine in an ever-deepening tangle.' The New York Times Book Review

'The best novel of the year. . . . Utterly original and deeply moving." Esquire

'An impeccably executed, moving, and wildly inventive tale of madness and narrative at the end of the world. Lethem is at the top of his game. ' Emily St. John Mandel, author of Station Eleven

Praise...


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ISBN 9781838952167
PRICE £14.99 (GBP)

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Average rating from 16 members


Featured Reviews

Jonathon Lethem has carved himself out a comfortable hole in the literary pop culture crossover sphere. Starting with high concept low weirdness science fiction and then hitting big with Motherless Brooklyn, he has always been pretty very readable but sometimes the big ideas get lost in asides and diversions. The Arrest (which is a distracting name for a post-technology dystopian piece) knows that its field is crowded, and so needs to get some digs or acknowledge the competition (Cormac McCarthy's The Road gets the main kicking here). Having a lead character called (or self referred to - no-one else calls him it) Journeyman is also a bit too cute. Our lead is just that, a Journeyman writer, a script doctor, someone who turns other ideas into the finished item - a quintessential middleman. Here he is, stuck in Maine with few useful skills but living at his sisters biodversity farm when technology stops working, and he narrates some of his past (a quippy Hollywood takedown) with the present - both revolving around his old partner in crime Todbaum. We are years into the dystopia and Todbaum - who also had a fling with Journeyman's sister, turns up in his indestructible nuclear powered car. Lethem isn't interested in the science of course, "technology stops working" is a standard what if to provide conflict. All technology stopping working except this one self sustainable nuclear powered Supercar (as known) is a wry gag and one which only partially works. In cocking a snook at the Handmaid's Tale and The Road, he also cocks a snook at his own story - which is a little bit of a pity because despite (and sometime because) of the self-deprecating knowingness it has a solid central question at heart. In the kingdom of the technology free, is the man with the Supercar King? There is also a meta-question which Lethem does tease nicely, in a Hollywood and culture industry that seems so obsessed with post-apocalypses, what good has it done us (do we create the dystopias we deserve)? There is definately an amorphous set of rampaging baddies (the Cordon) who are straight out of Mad Max central casting. All of this suggests I didn't enjoy which is not true, though I disliked having the games being played being made quite so obvious in places. There is a slight fear of sincerity here, I wonder if played completely straight if it would have worked better. But equally the wry asides, the moment of nowness (which admittedly feels a little dated already what with everything) might be lost.

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Jonathan Lethem veers all over the literary genre landscape, always has, and he forever runs the risk of alienating his rapt fans. His previous novel, The Feral Detective left me rather nonplussed, so I hoped "The Arrest," another switchback turn to the dystopia genre, would restore my faith. Fortunately it does, although the first few chapters are genuinely mystifying. The chapters themselves are short snippets, sometimes only a page long, and the book’s central character, Sandy Duplessis, is a scatty, mild mess, hardly a compelling narrative focus. But Lethem is a superb stylist (albeit in many different styles) and quickly one becomes absorbed in Sandy’s woozy worldview. The storyline is almost daft: after “the Arrest,” a global event that turns off nearly all technology, Sandy is comfortably numb in a rural Maine community that seems to be waiting for apocalypse, when his old movie producer buddy, an outre bullshit personality, arrives in a nuclear-powered digging machine. Throw in Sandy’s sister who once was ambiguously involved with the buddy, and the plot aches with foreboding but also crackles with Sandy’s life journey. Part dystopia, part satire, part examination of love and friendship, The Arrest is an odd fish novel that compels, a memorable peek into a man’s heart and soul. Heartily recommended.

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