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Sewer, Gas and Electric: The Public Works Trilogy

3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  1,900 ratings  ·  142 reviews
High above Manhattan android and human steelworkers are constructing a new Tower of Babel for billionaire Harry Gant, as a monument to humanity’s power to dream. In the festering sewers below a darker game is afoot: a Wall Street takeover artist has been murdered, and Gant’s crusading ex-wife, Joan Fine, has been hired to find out why. The year is 2023, and Ayn Rand has be ...more
Paperback, 464 pages
Published September 10th 2004 by Grove Press (first published 1994)
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Nov 07, 2008 Jillian rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Jillian by: Corprew
Shelves: sci-fi
This book is FanTasTic, and so fun to read. It combines mind-bending, wacky ideas with neat characters in the setting of New York City in 2023. There's some sci fi and some mystery and Lots of hilarity, I laughed out loud every 10 pages or so. Included in this book are environmental warnings, conspiracy theories, artificial intelligence, and some very interesting ideas about how Americans really feel about black people. All of this is wrapped up in a clever package that you should read.
Feb 26, 2011 Alan rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: If you've ever shrugged at Atlas Shrugged...
Recommended to Alan by: Sui generis
Sewer Gas and Electric is an utter failure as an sf novel—if science fiction must be defined as a serious attempt to predict the future, anyway. From the large-scale to the small, Sewer Gas and Electric's prognostications about the early 21st Century have almost uniformly failed to pan out. The Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts haven't merged into one urban exploration club; there are no high-speed trains criss-crossing the U.S.; nor are there twin towers still looming over southern Manhattan's Bat ...more
The last sentences of this book in the acknowledgments are:
"Thanks also to the New York Times, newspaper of record, for confirming that even in a rational universe, 'far-fetched' is a relative term. In an article dated February 10, 1935, the Times recounts the story of a group of teenagers who found a seven-and-a-half-foot alligator in a Harlem sewer, dragged it up onto the street, and beat it to death with shovels. Public works officials have since denied the existence of any reptile larger tha
Matt Ruff has written three novels in a literary career spanning nearly two decades; all three are rooted somehow in fantasy and should be regarded as fine examples of speculative fiction. "Sewer, Gas Electric: The Public Works Trilogy" is a dazzling, hilarious cyberpunk adventure set in the New York City of 2023. Ruff conjurs up a bizarre, almost dystopian, view of a near-future New York City laced with the political wisdom of Ayn Rand, who returns, resurrected as a major protagonist in this no ...more

That's pretty much the only way to describe this book. I loved it, I don't really remember the entire plot even though I've read it at least 4 times, and I'm pretty sure the plot made sense when I read it. What sticks with me are the vivid images in my head of certain scenes and moments in the book, permanently rendered there by the clever phrasing of the text.

I highly recommend this book. I wish I could coherently tell you why, but you can't always get what you want.

But if you try sometimes
E Lowe
Sep 11, 2008 E Lowe rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: People with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Aquarians
'Sewer, Gas and Electric' mixes ideology and fantasy in a funny, witty and inventive manner. The novel gives a creative and intelligent consequentialist interpretation of what the world could be like in 2023, while at the same time drawing in philosophical dialogues concerning morality, the environment and unrestrained liberal capitalism.

Would not recommend this book for someone who has difficulty keeping tack of many characters or following multiple plot lines.

May suggest reading Ayn Rand's '
My favorite of Matt Ruff's books. Like some of his others, it's packed full of characters. This one is very fun, lots of satire and comedy.

It involves robot servants, a flying mutant shark named Meisterbrau, a crew of ecoterrorists who pilot the polka-dotted submarine "Yabba-Dabba-Doo," a hurricane lamp containing the AI representation of Ayn Rand, and a mystery involving a sentient computer which resides underneath Disneyland.
This has the lunacy of Roald Dahl, the social commentary of Douglas Adams, and the tongue-in-cheek liberal guilt of a collection of Stuff White People Like blog entries, along with scholarly Bible references, lovingly Asimov-derivative sci-fi, and Ayn Rand rejecting the premise of a knock-knock joke. This is my third Matt Ruff novel, and I love it like I have loved his other work.

This is a story set in the distant future of the 21st century (it's not quite post-apocalyptic, more like mid-apocal
Apr 03, 2009 Dan rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: nobody I like
Recommended to Dan by: igtrtsootbc
I had to stop. I'm sorry. I hate not finishing books but this one increasingly felt like a waste of my ever precious reading minutes.

Yeah, this book is crap.

This book was very bad. It is not genius, clever, or even that interesting. The characters are not developed in any real way and the premise and plot situations are sophomoric and trite. This reads like a college student who had just read some philosophy and other literature decided to write a novel based on what he'd just learned. Had Ruff

"Artificial intelligence wasn't something to be trifled with, particularly if you didn't have the documentation that went with the hardware. Purloined military microchips wired into a homemade logic board, set to the task of creating consciousness from a kabbalistic stew of African songs, biographies, and broken dreams, all of the above encased in a pop art egg shell... Well, gods and devils had been born from a lot less, hadn't they?"—page 220

I coul
Just re-read this, as it's my book club pick this month. I love it as much as always. I happen to think that Matt Ruff has a fine command of excessive plot threads, a knack for fun characters (and Joan is so so great), a penchant for exhilarating action, and a delightful sense of the absurd.

He has also gotten better at women in this one (compared to my old favorite Fool on the Hill). Instead of a fairy whose battle scene we don't see, a cop who gets knocked out before she can help (although Nat
Jun 14, 2010 Sarah rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Sarah by: Jillian
(Preliminary apologies: I kind of sped through this book, and I will kind of speed through this review- my apologies to the author and also the the lady who recommended it to me! It's not been much of a week for dawdling, which is too bad- I could use some dawdling (although, of course, the fact that I dawdle so much is precisely what makes this a non-dawdle-able week, so perhaps I really could not use that dawdling)- and of course quality suffers where quantity prevails, but I want to add this ...more
Sam Reader

Okay, the rundown is as follows. This is a sprawling, crazy work about a great white shark, homicidal robots, eco terrorists, and overstuffed with insane twists and turns. The good is that there's a rich world full of colorful characters and a very "comic book" kind of feel to the overall proceedings that works in its favor.

The bad is that there is almost too muchhere, and definitely too much going on. That's really the only flaw with the book. Sorry to disappoint
New York im Jahre 2023. Philo Dufresne, ein Schwarzer mit grünen Augen (und gerade diese Augenfarbe rettete ihn vor der Ausrottung 2004), kämpft mit seinem U-Boot als Ökopirat gegen Harry Gant. Dieser wiederum ist wie in kleiner Junge, der immer höher hinaus will. Sein Ziel: einen Turm namens Babel zu bauen. Harry's Exfrau wiederum kämpft zuerst in der Kanalisation gegen einen mutierten Hai und geht danach der Frage nach, ob es vielleicht ein Roboter war, der Amberson Teaneck - einen Typ der Fir ...more
This book was outstandingly fun to read. Come on, a robotic safety device in the form of a beaver with the voice of Ralph Nader; what's not to like here? An environmental activist group on a polka dotted submarine that throw giant whipped cream pies at whaling vessels. I really really enjoyed reading this book and recommend it for a light-hearted read for just about anybody; but especially for people saturated in pop culture and political news junkies.

However, I did have some problems with the r
Nov 06, 2011 Charlotte rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommended to Charlotte by: Jillian
I think the best words to describe this book are "zany" and "romp." Set in a near-future dystopia, it takes a satirical view of a number of modern issues. Most biting is its treatment of race relations in the U.S. Through it all, characters must face outlandish hurdles to save the world.

Unfortunately, I found the shear ridiculousness of the book to be too much for me and the humor came off as forced. The oddities of the world tended to overwhelm the somewhat bland characters. Impressively, many
pierlapo  quimby
Dopo un inizio folgorante ho via via perso interesse per la trama e i vari personaggi del romanzo.
Quando può succedere di tutto, non dà alcuno stimolo attendere il momento in cui succederà.
Il punto è che credo di detestare questi novelli campioni della letteratura postmoderna o avant-pop o come diavolo piace loro definirsi.
Caro Matt Ruff, cos'è?, non ti sta bene scrivere fantascienza? Non ti basta, forse? Ti senti costretto dall'etichetta, non del tutto compreso nel genere, nevvero?
Eppure non ci
This book is Zany--with a capital Z. Whether that's good or bad depends on your perspective. Ruff seems to have tossed every wacky idea he's ever had into one book. Some of it works, some of it doesn't. Because he focuses so much on his ker-razy ideas about the near future, there's no real character development or even differentiation. Most of the main characters seem like platforms for Ruff's various ideas rather than people in their own right. It definitely could have used an editor's stronger ...more
Matt Ruff has created a novel entirely intent on pulling the crazed insanity from within each of us. There is nothing normal about this novel; it will leave you in hysterics if you allow it and it will definitely leave you wondering how you managed to pack so much wonderful nonsense into your mind. Each page brings new characters and plots which lead you to the cliff of disbelief and leave you there to teeter over the edge and debate whether it can possibly get any more absurd. Well, yes it can.
Dec 01, 2010 Oriana marked it as to-read
Shelves: to-read-soon
this is a note to myself, which please feel free to remind me of later when I forget again:

self, you always for some reason confuse this book with Stone Junction by Jim Dodge. I think they are the same slightly oversize, with similar lurid reds & purples? But otherwise I don't know why this happens. Hurry up and read this so that you will be able to separate them properly in your head. okay?
Jun 28, 2011 Hirsuited rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Bored sewer rats/objectivist scum.
SG&E is breezy and fun, an action novel draped in all shades and shapes of non-sequitur absurdity, with a few murky passages of philosophical rumination (Ayn Rand, a miserable and depressing presence, even as a fiction trapped in a lamp in someone else's book). It doesn't rank with the Diskworld and Hitchhiker's Guide novels, but its almost as much fun to read.
In my top 3 books of all time (it's possible I've said this about approximately 5 books, but in this case I mean it).

Sewer, Gas and Electric is a fantastic novel. It sparked my imagination so many years ago when I read it, and opened up for me the horizons of absurdity and comedy in fiction. From the mutant radioactive shark to Ayn Rand projection in a hurricane lamp, this book will always represent some of my favorite characters and scenes from literature. It's not perfect, mind you - there are
Atena Oyadi
I learned everything I ever wanted to know about Ayn Rand reading this book. My favorite of Matt Ruff's books.
"'It can play ten different classics,' Eddie continued to explain. 'It's got sixty-four voices.
'We can hear that,' said Hartower. 'The question is, can you make them shut up?'
'Well I'm working on it,' Eddie said. He tried to remember where the mute button was, but before he could, a shark came out of the water and ate him."

"'You're crazy, Mom,' Joan told her mother, not for the first time. 'The College of Cardinals area a bunch of old virgins with bad tempers. It's causing them physical pain to
Liz Michel
The year is 2023. High above the canyons of Manhattan, a crew of human and android steelworkers is approaching the halfway point in the construction of a new Tower of Babel. The tower is the brainchild of billionaire Harry Gant, who is building it as a monument to humanity's power to dream. Meanwhile, on the streets (and below), a darker game is afoot: A Wall Street takeover artist has been murdered, and Harry's ex-wife, Joan Fine, has been hired to find out why. Accompanying her is philo
I was filled with trepidation about this book because Ruff's 'Fool On the Hill' was so bad that it is one of the very few books I've ever given up on (within 50 pages). Equally perplexing was finding a short blurb from the wonderful Thomas Pynchon on the back cover below a lengthy and hubristic 'blurb' from the execrable Neal Stephenson. Add to that a review that compares the book to the surrealism of Steve Erickson (SGE is not even remotely surreal in prose terms) while also suggesting that it ...more
This is the third book by Matt Ruff I've read, and he doesn't fail to disappoint when it comes to twists, turns, and overall wackiness of premise. The first 50-or-so pages (don't quote me on that, the big font on my iPad distorts to pg. count) introduced a plethora of characters, making it a bit difficult to keep track of all the going's on in the story. However, the converging characters tied into the story nicely towards the end of the Sewer section, and the mystery aspect of the plot really k ...more
If really mind-bending science fiction is the main course then this would be dessert. It's a meta-science-fiction mash-up which wins your heart with its witty, if unlikely plotline and hilarous characters. A Gibson-esque omniscient supercomputer owned by a megacorporation wreaks havok on the world. Only this time. . .it's the Disney corporation, and the computer is trying to force the world to obey cartoon logic - obeying misheard dinner orders from it's creator as final commands. The protagonis ...more
This is a well written and enjoyable novel which is let down by too much happening in it. That may sound strange but for me there are too many principle characters to keep track of and too many secondary characters who appear and sometimes exist for a chapter and sometime appear much later in the book. This can be confusing for a simple reader like me. Coupled with a plot which is great science fiction but tends towards the fantastical in some cases and some foreshadowing which can pause for 100 ...more
Meh. Neither terrible nor good, this is a rather self-indulgent, confusing whirlwind of a book based in large part on the philosophy of Ayn Rand (so you know it's going to be a little kooky). Though it doesn't wholeheartedly embrace Rand's thinking, considerable space is devoted to both thesis and antithesis. The plot is a bit difficult to follow until the climactic section. The point is even harder to find. Not that every novel has to have a point, but it does help justify spending so many hour ...more
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G.A.S - Gas Safety Check Specialist 1 6 Jul 02, 2013 02:12AM  
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I was born in New York City in 1965. I decided I wanted to be a fiction writer when I was five years old and spent my childhood and adolescence learning how to tell stories. At Cornell University I wrote what would become my first published novel, Fool on the Hill, as my senior thesis in Honors English. My professor Alison Lurie helped me find an agent, and within six months of my college graduati ...more
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