THE ARREST by Jonathan Lethem

THE ARREST by Jonathan Lethem

Literary science fiction too concerned with whimsical wordplay than any perceivable story

Note: Our “First 100 Pages” reviews take a brief look at books that, for a variety of reasons, we didn’t spend a lot of time with. This feature explains why we think they’re worth returning to — or permanently exiling to the DNF pile.

THE ARREST by Jonathan Lethem

THE ARREST Publisher’s Description

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—quits 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.

The First 100 Words…

There’s a very interesting premise at work in THE ARREST, and I was excited to see how it would play out. Unfortunately for me, Lethem’s prose made reading this an absolute chore. I’d be charmed by one turn of phrase, and then have to fight through a tangled paragraph of unnecessary simile and whimsy.

I love some good word play, and finding an author with a distinct, recognizable voice is a true joy as a reader. But Lethem seems too in love with this voice, too focused on layering quirky observation on top of quirky characters.

After 100 pages, I still had no idea what this book was about, where it was going, or why I should care.

I didn’t want to spend time with any of these people, and I didn’t want to spend time in this world. It just wore me out.

Final Thoughts

I imagine THE ARREST is one of those books that will knock the socks off some, and completely turn off others. Sadly, I’m in the latter camp.

File under: DNF, will not return to.

THE ARREST by Jonathan Lethem

The Arrest

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Picture of Adron Buske

Adron Buske

Adron Buske (he/him) is the founder of FICTIONS & FANDOMS, and hosts FICTITIOUS, a podcast about the storytelling craft of science fiction and fantasy. An avid cross-genre reader, he prefers thought-provoking, character driven stories with complex moralities, well-developed worlds, diverse characters, and big adventures. Some favorite books: American Gods (Neil Gaiman), The Wolf in the Whale (Jordanna Max Brodsky), The Murderbot Diaries (Martha Wells), and The Night Circus (Erin Morgenstern).
Picture of Adron Buske

Adron Buske

Adron Buske (he/him) is the founder of FICTIONS & FANDOMS, and hosts FICTITIOUS, a podcast about the storytelling craft of science fiction and fantasy. An avid cross-genre reader, he prefers thought-provoking, character driven stories with complex moralities, well-developed worlds, diverse characters, and big adventures. Some favorite books: American Gods (Neil Gaiman), The Wolf in the Whale (Jordanna Max Brodsky), The Murderbot Diaries (Martha Wells), and The Night Circus (Erin Morgenstern).

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