Imagine this: New York City has been hit with a dirty bomb. No, I'm not talking about a bomb that tells inappropriate nursery rhymes, I'm talking about a bomb that spreads radioactive waste, slowly killing everything in its wake. Throw in some climate change-related disasters, a super addictive online video game and you've got the perfect recipe for the dystopian sic-fi thriller that is Shovel Ready.
Spademan is a hit-man, before that, when the world was still semi-normal, he was a garbage man. Then the terrorists dropped the bomb on New York, killing his wife and his will to carry on as he did before.
He has specific rules about his job, he kills both men and women but he won't kill children because according to him that's "a different kind of psycho." Then, out of the blue, he's given a job with a very lucrative payoff. The catch? The target is an eighteen year-old pregnant girl.
He refuses the job and instead of her killer, he becomes her guardian. He quickly learns that she's the daughter of a wealthy television evangelist that spends all of his time the same way the other super-rich people do: jacked into an online virtual reality world called the limnosphere. So addictive is the limnosphere that anyone with enough cash spends months of their lives plugged into it, lying in a bed while a nurse feeds them and tends to other, more *cough* delicate matters. It's the Wachowskis meets Dashiell Hammett.
What I love most about Shovel Ready is that yes, Spademan is a ruthless killer that would off your great-gammie if the price is right, but you can't help but cheer for him as he takes on the forces that run the limnosphere while protecting the girl he's been hired to murder. He's the perfect anti-hero for a world that's been completely gutted by terrorism, climate change and corruption.
Shovel Ready is still going strong as my favourite book of 2014, Sternbergh is currently writing a sequel and a movie starring Denzel Washington is in the works.
It's a great debut full of shocking twists and most importantly a cynical, tough and uncompromising protagonist that I can't wait to see again.