Shovel Ready by Adam Sternbergh is set in a future New York after a radioactive bomb has detonated in Times Square. Manhattan is now a deserted landscape where crime runs rampant and cops don’t even pretend to do their jobs anymore. Although most people flee the city, some diehards decide to stay, holing themselves up in their apartments, protected by bodyguards, and losing themselves in a virtual world that is sucking in those who can afford it. Others, like our protagonist Spademan, refuse to leave for reasons of their own.
The story begins with Spademan, a hired killer, taking on a new client who wants eighteen year Persephone dead. He quickly finds the girl, but also finds out she is pregnant. He’s a murderer with ethics, so this job is a no go. But instead of going on his way the unlikely pair unite to keep each other safe and to also bring down a cult leader who has many people, including influential politicians, under his control.
I ended the book thinking, “This is such a boy book.” It has a very minimalist, noir style that boys seem to love, but I only find an entertaining enough diversion. I chose this book based on a list of the best literature of 2014. I’m unsure why it made it onto this list and am unsure of why there are so many five star reviews. There was nothing new or inventive about it and it was pretty corny. (I can imagine if it were made into a movie the tag line would go something like– Once upon a time he was a garbage man. Now he just takes out the garbage.) The only reason I might remember this book years from now is because of the satisfaction I felt at imagining a world without Times Square.