Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Literally the Best Reviews: The Heap

The Heap - Sean Adams
William Morrow Publishing
320 Pages

To say that The Heap by Sean Adams intrigued me from the moment I saw it in the book review magazine would be an understatement. I would go to the Lockport Library around the time I figured it would hit the shelves, eagerly anticipating its appearance. It took awhile. I guess other people had the same idea that I did and had checked it out, or even reserved it before I had the chance. Somehow, it landed in my pile just before we got shut down for the coronavirus, and I was able to finally read this book. And it lived up to almost all the hype it was given (the lone piece was about it being a science fiction book. It is not, in my opinion.).

Sometime in the very near future, a behemoth of a building is constructed in the middle of the desert. At 500 stories, it is the world’s largest apartment building, retail center and recreational center. It is virtually its own city state, with “neighborhoods” determined by wealth and how close to the windows you can get to live. It was planned as a self-sufficient, so-called Utopia. However, as with all utopian endeavors, this one is doomed to fail. That is where this story begins -- in the aftermath of that failure.

Los Verticales, the wonder of modern architecture and engineering has collapsed into a twenty acre debris field known as “the Heap.” A makeshift camp community has popped up around these ruins and jobs have appeared. These Dig Hands, as they’re called, work to clear the tangled beams, crushed concrete, and broken lives scattered across the sands. 

Somehow, Bernard Anders has survived the collapse. As a DJ for the building-city, he is trapped somewhere beneath the ruins, broadcasting to his faithful listeners. Among those is Orville, his brother, who has joined the Dig Hands to help rescue his brother. Orville calls into his brother’s radio show each evening to talk. Because of the immense popularity of these interactions, the parent company of the radio station wants Orville to start injecting subtly placed product endorsements into his conversations so they can make more money. When he rebuffs the advances to this, his access to Bernard is cut off. But somehow, each evening, he hears his own voice speaking with Bernard, and adding in product placement. Orville is astounded and vows to get back in touch with his brother and find out the truth.

What follows is a case of life threatening hijinks that puts Orville in situations for which he is not prepared. Despite the adversity, he keeps coming out on the winning end. He uncovers a cabal of big business and unscrupulous actors to fight his way to the truth through the rubble of his own life. This dark satire explores the human soul in unique and somewhat humorous ways despite the pitfalls that our hero faces each day. 

Intermixed among the trials and tribulations of Orville Anders are short vignettes of life in Los Verticales. They show the initial excitement of opening the tower for habitation. But over time, the dark side of living with so many people in such a confined area starts to appear. Various factions break out among the residents. While they don’t actually war with each other, it’s as close as it can be. It is as the enclosed society starts to break down that the first cracks in the building begin to appear. In parallel, that society crashes just as the building collapses in on itself.

Sean Adams delivers a dark satire with The Heap that explores the ridiculous aspects of modern life. The novel may serve as a warning to the excesses of our society while simultaneously poking fun at some of the mega-corporations that seemingly control our lives. This was a fun book to read, with the adventures of Orville and his band of misfits, and with the message woven underneath about our current civilization.

The Heap provides us with a warning about the dangers of giving corporations like Google, Amazon, and Disney too much power. We should not be bowing to a new Gad. This novel, in my opinion, can be viewed as a parable on our current way of life. It is an excellent read. I can’t wait to see what Sean Adams delivers next.

Craig Bacon sometimes spends too much time on Google and Amazon. He avoids Disney as much as he can. With four kids, every day at his house is like a busy day at a theme park.