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A Highly Unlikely Scenario, or a Neetsa Pizza Employee's Guide to Saving the World

2.83  ·  Rating Details  ·  622 Ratings  ·  165 Reviews
In the not-too-distant future, competing giant fast food factions rule the world. Leonard works for Neetsa Pizza, the Pythagorean pizza chain, in a lonely but highly surveilled home office, answering calls on his complaints hotline. It’s a boring job, but he likes it—there’s a set answer for every scenario, and he never has to leave the house. Except then he starts getting ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published January 14th 2014 by Melville House (first published January 1st 2014)
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Feb 04, 2014 KWinks rated it liked it
Did you ever have a friend who was SO EXCITED to tell you about this WILD dream she had the night before and you listen, patiently, as she begins to describe it? You quickly realize that it just goes on and on and has no point. Some of it is interesting, most of it makes no sense, and quite a bit is just plain repetition (Felix has a red afro!).

Yeah, that is this book.

I wanted to like it, and for the most part- I liked Leonard. I wanted to see Leonard bust out of the white room. I got what I wa
Jan 22, 2014 ester rated it really liked it
Rachel Cantor’s blast of a debut novel, A Highly Unlikely Scenario (Melville House), is one of the more efficient Literary Pleasure Delivery Systems available so far in 2014, and also one of the more manic. It is highbrow science fiction at top speed, full of sharp turns, even sharper turns-of-phrase, and herring jokes. Cantor does not pause for quotation marks, let alone exposition; the unrelenting pace makes for an occasionally overwhelming reading experience, but one that remains enjoyable al ...more
Jeffrey Grant
Feb 18, 2014 Jeffrey Grant rated it it was ok
Satire and parody are forms of humor that rely heavily on the audience’s knowledge of the original subject matter. Spaceballs isn’t as amusing if you haven’t seen Star Wars, you miss a lot from John Scalzi’s Redshirts if you’re not familiar with Star Trek, and many of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books are laden with in-jokes that only those well-versed in fantasy will understand. For a more specific example, in Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s book, most US readers totally missed that the character F ...more
Fantasy Literature
Feb 25, 2014 Fantasy Literature rated it really liked it
Shelves: marion
When I distill down my responses to Rachel Cantor’s debut novel, A Highly Unlikely Scenario, or; a Neetsa Pizza Employee’s Guide to Saving the World, I find that what moved me the most profoundly was the main character, Leonard’s, relationship with his nephew, Felix. Leonard’s connection to his now-dead grandfather is important, and Sally the neo-Baconian librarian... Read More:
Dec 13, 2013 LibraryReads rated it it was amazing
Shelves: january-2014
“Leonard works for Neetsa Pizza, a Pythagorean pizza chain, in the near-ish future. His job is to take calls, listen to complaints and help his customers achieve maximum pizza happiness. His employee manual gives him an answer for every scenario–until he gets a call from Marco, who seems to be calling from another time or space. Think of Terry Pratchett crossed with Douglas Adams.”

Jane Jorgenson, Madison Public Library, Madison, WI
Feb 21, 2014 Damond rated it really liked it
This is an incredibly quirky, complex, quick-read sci-fi satire. Don't let the overly simplistic description on the back fool you. This novel delves deep into ancient philosophers/ies, Jewish mysticism, medieval history and historical figures, all of which is set in a future where governments have been replaced by corporations and religions replaced by philosophies.

Leonard lives with his neo-Maoist sister Carol and his nephew Felix, and he hasn't really gone out into the world in over five years
Feb 08, 2014 Anmiryam rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literary-2014
From my blog: http://myoverstuffed-shelves.blogspot...

Imagine living in a world where the food you eat is intrinsically linked to your ideological and philosophical affiliation?

Oh, right, we already live in that world. We buy organic and local. We pursue kale recipes with ardor, avoid carbs, or meat, or fat, or gluten, or dairy depending on what we think we should or shouldn't be eating.* That is, if we are economically privileged enough to be in a position to choose.

I don't mean to get sidetrac
Feb 08, 2014 Julie rated it it was ok
Shelves: firstreads
There were parts of this book that were quite interesting, and moments of dialogue or scenes that were engaging. However, the issue that prevails in this book is that the author never creates a universe that is understandable and relateable. Individual concepts which would be inventive on their own, such as a world where fast-food restaurants dominate society, a child who can freeze time, or technological advances such as a house identity scrambler, are thrown together with such frequency that n ...more
Feb 05, 2014 Laura rated it liked it
The tone and narrative this book was excellent. I find myself endeared with the characters and reading usually defined what happens next. However for speculative fiction book I found world building to be less than adequate.

Like so many great speculative fiction writers, the author does not give a background to the alternative world, but there tells it and drips and drabs through allusions made to it throughout the book. Unlike Atwood and Adams, however, this world is not fully fleshed out using
May 28, 2014 Meredith rated it liked it
This book has heart, and quirky brains too. Jewish mysticism and history of science, along with a well-developed future world and charmingly oddball characters. It's a sort of just-go-with-the-flow book. Energetic and open-faced, absurd. If in the end it didn't quite coalesce, at least it gave me some chuckles and precious moments along the way.
Catherine Heloise
Mar 10, 2014 Catherine Heloise rated it liked it
I loved the premise of this book - and really, a title like that is far too brilliant to pass up - but the book didn't really work for me. It was clear that the author was writing on more than one level, but I never did quite figure out what the second layer was, and a lot of the humour seemed to rely on knowledge or cultural understanding that I lacked.

I did enjoy the characters, and the various philosophically-affiliated fast food chains (the Cathars' rather unsuccessful, and ultimately self-d
Mar 04, 2014 Jon added it
Recommended to Jon by: KCPL Adult Winter 2014 Read
Aug 23, 2015 Kelly rated it it was amazing
It's hard to find a book that's hilarious, hyper-smart, genre-bending, joyfully weird, etc. AS WELL AS beautifully written. Rachel Cantor turns a phrase like nobody's business. Looking forward to GOOD ON PAPER.
Nov 12, 2014 Alan rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Beautiful mystics and fast-food addicts
Recommended to Alan by: The pizza-delivery guy
Nothing is more fun than starting a sentence not knowing how it will end.
—An Interview with the Author, p.244

As you might expect from the above, A Highly Unlikely Scenario by Rachel Cantor (or, to use its full name, A Highly Unlikely Scenario: Or, a Neetsa Pizza Employee's Guide to Saving the World) is something of a hot mess. Most of its sentences seem to have been started without knowing where they would end. Absurd rather than comedic, this short novel brings us relatively few laughs but an e
Jun 13, 2014 Andie rated it really liked it
Do you crave a dystopian landscape, but just can’t handle another all-out blood bath? Maybe something with humor and heart – generally that would be followed by a hearty “Good luck.” However, Rachel Cantor’s “A Highly Unlikely Scenario,” actually answers this request, and manages to please those who crave Sci-Fi without a healthy dose of nightmare.

This tale launches the reader into a near-future where the fast-food giants rule the political and spiritual realms. Yes, I promise I said “in the fut
David Harris
Apr 04, 2014 David Harris rated it really liked it
Leonard is a complaints handler for Neetsa Pizza, a Pythagorean pizza company. In a world where everything is recognisable, but a bit different (money is always "lucre"; clothes are "togs"; everyone has an Afro and rival philosophies - latter day Baconians, Heraclitans, Whiggs - jostle for power through their fast food chains) we are still, it seems, cursed with a Leader... ( whose Chipmunk Patrol carry Justice Sticks).

So Leonard sits all night in his White Room, listening to irate customers and
Feb 16, 2014 Amanda rated it really liked it
A Highly Unlikely Scenario... is the most fun I've had reading a book so far this year. Cantor's writing is parts Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, Margaret Atwood, and Dr. Seuss, but of course entirely fresh in its own right. In the (not too distant?) future, society is controlled by fast food chains who preach philosophy. Things are tense and a revolution is a-brewing. Leonard, however, has a steady job as a Listener (customer service rep) for Neetsa Pizza, a fast food chain that subscribes to P ...more
Feb 06, 2014 Elizabeth rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi, humor, 4-stars
Rachel Cantor's A Highly Unlikely Scenario, or a Neesta Pizza Employee's Guide to Saving the World: A Novel is a strange, quirky and fun science fiction novel. With an odd combination of dystopia, time travel and Jewish mysticism, Cantor follows in the footsteps of Douglas Adams with her debut novel. While perhaps not for everyone, I thoroughly enjoyed the story.
The title alone - A Highly Unlikely Scenario, or a Neesta Pizza Employee's Guide to Saving the World: A Novel - sets the tone for the o
Jan 28, 2014 Abigail rated it really liked it
Set in the "near-future" (not a quote from the book, just quoted because I really hope it stays fictional....), Leonard works for Neetsa Pizza as a Listener (read: complaints dept.) and never leaves home except to meet his nephew at the bus stop in the afternoons. He's content with his boring life but then he starts getting phone calls from Marco Polo...

I got an arc copy of this book at ALA last summer, started reading, then got distracted, as is my wont. But I came back eventually to a book I k
Jan 25, 2014 JudithAnn rated it really liked it
The subtitle of this novel is great fun: Or, A Neetsa Pizza Employee’s Guide to Saving the World. The story itself? I found it rather weird, but in an attractive way.

The idea is fun: a pizza company complaints officer accidentally gets a call from a 13th Century explorer. After the first struggles about going off-script, they start having interesting conversations (well, interesting for them, I was rather confused) and eventually, Leonard is persuaded to leave his safe place and go out in the wo
Feb 14, 2014 lisa rated it did not like it
I wanted to read this book because of two phrases on the back cover: "woman librarian" and "anarchist book group". I'm not a fan of science fiction, but I thought I would take a chance based on those phrases. After twenty pages I was disgusted with the plot, and there were no librarians or book groups. After fifty pages I was completely fed up, and there were STILL no librarians or book groups. I skipped to the end, which made no sense to me, but neither did the beginning of this story. I have a ...more
Martha Bullen
Feb 06, 2014 Martha Bullen rated it liked it
This quirky, whimsical sci-fi novel is not for everyone.

Are you a fan of Dr. Who, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Terry Pratchett and Kurt Vonnegut? If so, you'll have a great time reading A Highly Unlikely Scenario. Do you enjoy conventional novels set firmly on terra firma? Then this book is not likely to float your boat.

This debut novel by Rachel Cantor involves an unlikely quest by Leonard, a Neetsa Pizza employee who is reluctantly battling the forces of evil, accompanied by his 7-ye
Aug 22, 2015 Matt rated it really liked it
Absolutely not what I thought it would be, and yet completely what I thought it would be, I really enjoyed this book. I'm giving it four stars for now, but it's possible I could bump it up to five stars depending on how thoroughly it stays with me a few months down the line.

The comparisons to Douglas Adams are certainly apt, but I worry that they could set some false expectations. Really this is a chaotic, funny, sad, and sweet book that mixes Pythagoreanism, Jewish mysticism, medieval philosoph
Jun 27, 2014 Alex rated it really liked it
An absurdist take on fast food as philosophy, Jewish mysticism, history, and time travel, with a Hitchhiker's Guide tone and a dystopian setting. It could be the biggest collection of cynical attempts at hitting every market if it weren't for its rather large heart. There's a nice sense of the things Leonard has lost, even if he doesn't know he's lost them, and a really great relationship with his nephew and his potential girlfriend, both of whom might also be the keys to stopping or starting th ...more
Jennifer D
Dec 30, 2014 Jennifer D rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2014-books
ummm... that was strange. it was weird and quirky, which isn't generally a problem with me. but i found it really clunky - the read did not flow well for me. and i felt a bit poorly-informed at some moments -- like some sort of insider or background knowledge was needed (jewish mysticism, for example), and i just wasn't in on the jokes/satire. having worked in a customer service call centre, many years ago, so that idea was very familiar to me. heh! sigh. but overall, the book is a bit of a hot ...more
Kristin Strong
Nov 29, 2015 Kristin Strong rated it it was ok
Shelves: not-recommended
I went into this one wanting to like it, and the premise had promise, just didn't pan out.

It's set in the not too distant future, and apparently fast food chains and their employees are something like the factions in "Divergent" but the chains are also in control somehow, but this is never stated, only implied. In fact, quite a lot of things aren't stated, but only implied -- I'm not sure if the author wants to allow the reader room to put his/her own imagination to work on the text, or
Andrew K. Lee
Jan 12, 2015 Andrew K. Lee rated it it was ok
Set in a mildly dystopian future in which fast-food companies rule the world and various ideologies have banded together in cult-like groups, the story focuses on Leonard, a hapless telephone operator fielding complaint calls to Neetsa Pizza, who along with his family is pulled into a world of dangerous cabals, mystical connections, and time travel when he somehow makes contact with the 14th century explorer Marco Polo on the phone.

The story is framed by regular references to the Kabbalah, in te
Ross Nelson
Jun 10, 2014 Ross Nelson rated it liked it
Have read the initial premise of the book, I was intrigued and it sounded fun. And it is, it's got an imaginative idea and some clever, whimsical touches. A quarter of the way through the book, I was hooked and expected it to go deeper. It didn't.

For all the knowledge it touches on (Roger Bacon, the Kabbalah, Marco Polo), it never goes beyond the surface (In fact there are chunks that simply read like Wikipedia entries), and the relationships between the characters stays at the basic Nancy Drew/
Mar 14, 2014 TS rated it liked it
Really enjoyed the premise behind the book. It was a quirky and a bit goofy, which was a nice reprieve from my most recent reads (think thousand-page, dust-covered classics) that were a bit more serious. I also really enjoy comedic sci-fi, so this book definitely fell into my kind of genre.

The idea of food being linked with different philosophical groups was something I've never seen before, so I enjoyed the novelty of it - it reminded me of satrical, light-hearted twist on something like Paulo
Feb 11, 2014 Danika marked it as to-read
Notes on why I want to read this:
"Leonard is a complaints guy for a national Pythagorean pizza chain. In his world, Whigs, Heraclitans, and other ideologues seek converts through proprietary fast-food chains; Catharites and armed followers of the thirteenth-century scientist and friar Roger Bacon engage in bitter battle to claim the untranslatable Voynich manuscript; and all are vaguely under threat by a neo-Maoist movement that’s trying to radicalize the middle classes."
YES PLEASE. I am a huge
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I am the author of the novel GOOD ON PAPER (coming out from Melville House in January 2016), and the novel A HIGHLY UNLIKELY SCENARIO, OR A NEETSA PIZZA EMPLOYEE'S GUIDE TO SAVING THE WORLD (Melville House 2014).

I live in New York, city of my heart, in the writerly borough of Brooklyn, but have at various points made my home in most U.S. states between Virginia and Vermont. In addition to writing
More about Rachel Cantor...

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