Thomas Pynchon’s new novel, Bleeding Edge (Penguin Pr. ISBN 9781594204234. $27.95), is set for publication in September, and already reviews are passing before my eyes. So I’ll give you my take on this heady, ground-shifting novel, which explores early Internet angst and the buildup to 9/11 to give us a world on the verge. Interestingly, despite the on-the-edge setting and language, the novel wraps with a core sense of human values. Truly your most important reading for the fall.
Once again, Pynchon delivers an extraordinary sense of the zeitgeist. As Bleeding Edge opens, Maxine Tarnow—sort of separated from staid Horst—gets her sons off to school in an artfully rendered Upper West Side directly before 9/11. A fraud investigator who’s lost her license, which makes for scuzzy clients but lets her pack a Beretta, Maxine is on the case when filmmaker friend Reg contacts her about his suspicions regarding hashslingrz, the computer security firm he’s been asked to document. Maxine’s investigations lead her to hashslingrz monomaniac Gabriel Ice; Igor, a Russian Mafioso with a conscience and two rap-spouting sidekicks named Misha and Grisha; government agent Windust, a murderer and torturer with whom Maxine exchanges information and a carnal moment; and many more. Then there’s friend Vyrva, whose husband has helped create the virtual escape site DeepArcher, emblem of the turn-of-the-21st-century techno-angst, -greed, and –possibility that is the book’s thematic context. VERDICT A theory is voiced about CIA involvement in 9/11 to get funding from anti-Islamic sources. But 9/11 is not ultimately the point. Nor is Maxine’s page-turning, occasionally dense, high art–low art mystery trail. What matters is the creation of a time, a place, and authentic, deeply connected characters, all heightened by Pynchon’s darkly hilarious way with language and located on the “bleeding edge” as the world changed.