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Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

3.48  ·  Rating details ·  5,846 ratings  ·  993 reviews
Three young adults grapple with the usual thirty-something problems—boredom, authenticity, an omnipotent online oligarchy—in David Shafer's darkly comic debut novel.

The Committee, an international cabal of industrialists and media barons, is on the verge of privatizing all information. Dear Diary, an idealistic online Underground, stands in the way of that takeover, using
Hardcover, 432 pages
Published August 5th 2014 by Mulholland Books
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Philip This book is not about its plot. The ending is perfect. It is emotionally the exact moment to end the book. Author did not run out of steam. Tying up …moreThis book is not about its plot. The ending is perfect. It is emotionally the exact moment to end the book. Author did not run out of steam. Tying up every loose end in the plot is for Agatha Christie.(less)
Dan W Can't comment to a comment, sorry - in the Reader's Guide at the end of the book, the author has a question - "Did you notice this book is a palindrom…moreCan't comment to a comment, sorry - in the Reader's Guide at the end of the book, the author has a question - "Did you notice this book is a palindrome?" I have the same question as the poster, because nothing I could see was palindromic. Sure, the title is an acronym for WTF, but I really hope that's not what the author meant because that would would mean they a) don't know the difference between palindrome and acronym, and b) thought that was a worthwhile, thoughtful Reader's Guide question, rather than an amusing little dig they threw in.(less)

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Average rating 3.48  · 
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 ·  5,846 ratings  ·  993 reviews

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May 07, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
i read this a couple weeks back, but i haven't been able to write a review for it. i didn't know wtf to say about it then and i don't know wtf to say about it now.

so instead, i will interview myself:

-why didn't you like this book? why do you hate books, karen?

it's not even like that, dude - it was a good book, i just don't think i am the best judge of it, is all, and for some reason, it has left me with nothing to say.

-who would be the best judge of it?

see, ordinarily i would say greg. it has th
This book has been compared to the likes of Thomas Pynchon, David Foster Wallace, Don DeLillo, Philip K. Dick, Neal Stephenson and Chuck Palahniuk. I don’t think that’s doing it any favors because while it isn’t bad, it never got close to those guys at their best for me.

This is essentially one of the fusions in which the author mixes Serious Lit-A-Chur with the DNA of a genre novel which in this case is a conspiracy-cyber thriller with a little sci-fi for flavor. Leila is a Persian-American work
Feb 03, 2015 rated it liked it
Oh my god, you're going to just end it there?? WTF
Aug 17, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
I think if I had read this book a couple of years ago I would have liked it more.

My witty little thought about this book was, this is sort of what Pynchon might write if he wrote a minor novel about the internet, oh but wait Pynchon just published his own minor novel about the internet in the past year.

It's good and deserving of the buzz that shot up around it when it was released. For me it was too much in the DFW/Pynchon with a bit of Cryptonomicon era Neal Stephenson thrown in but without th
May 25, 2015 rated it did not like it
It's probably not all David Shafer's fault. Somewhere along the way some nefarious publisher probably told him that no one would shell out for a 900 page novel, even if it was well-written and populated with engaging characters. Or maybe someone told Shafer that his talent was so obvious that readers would be helpless to resist picking up the inevitable sequels, and so there was no real need for this intro volume to have a story or any kind of meaningful conclusion.

But here's the thing: no matte
Sep 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Many reviews of WTF reference a list of lauded authors whose styles seem to be in the soup of this book - a dash of Pynchon, a touch of Foster Wallace. I didn't know that when I started reading it, as I'd picked it up on the strength of a friend's recommendation, plus one line of a NY Times review that said it was a late contender for 'book of the summer'. But sure enough, as I was reading, I was quickly thinking 'ah, this is like a mix of Zadie Smith (in NW3), Gary Shteyngart (Super Sad True Lo ...more
Jul 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
A solid four-star read, marked by good writing (often funny), and a sprawling narrative that makes you want to keep reading to see how all the disparate stories connect. The book occasionally suffers, however, from being overly glib, and not really plumbing many depths of its characters--not really taking many risks. But sometimes that's exactly the kind of book you want. I did enjoy it.
Sep 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing

“Curiously refreshing” *

Added Dec 2014 14 WTF on "best of 2014" lists
Daily Beast
Time magazine
Sarah's bookshelves
shortlisted (one of 15) for Pacific Northwest Booksellers Assoc
Publisher's Weekly
Sep 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I tried to avoid commenting on Whisky Tango Foxtrot for fear of sounding like a plant (the author, David Shafer is my brother) but I decided to wade in. It's clear that he doesn't need my plug on Goodreads but here it goes.

WTF is a bright modern thriller, but if the idea of reading a book about a corporate cabal is not quite your jam then let me just say that there are many layers to this book. The book is about feeling lost in your 20's / 30's, it's about "the prickly but adamantine love betwee
Aug 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
I decided to read this after seeing Lev Grossman recommend it here. While I enjoyed this slow burning, globetrotting conspiracy thriller that followed three captivating, well-written lead characters, I have to note three specific things that may or may not influence others' decisions to read it:
1. This book is to Neal Stephenson what methadone is to heroin. While I understand the comparisons that others have made, and see them myself -- especially with the tendencies towards maximalism -- this i
Lance Charnes
Feb 21, 2015 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: readers who would like Gibson novels if the characters weren't so energetic
If there was such a genre as "slacker cyberpunk," Whiskey Tango Foxtrot would firmly fit inside it. You might also find it on the "rehab science fiction" or "literary conspiracy drama" shelves at B&N. Repeated mentions of Edward Snowden on the back cover might lead a harried stockperson to shelve it in the "post-privacy politics" section. This is both the charm and the downfall of this novel; it's neither fish nor fowl, neither literary nor genre, neither serious nor sendup.

For all this, it's no
Lena Cox
Oct 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: debut-novels
I’d like to pull up a chair in David Shafer’s brain and sift through his thoughts that led to the creation of Whisky Tango Foxtrot. The tale rattles the brain out of apathy, prying the eyes open to stare at the on-coming headlights of future societal organization. It’s the type of story that will have you agreeing that signing up for a Prepper’s Camp is a good idea. If coupled with Alena Graedon’s Word Exchange, there’s a chance you’ll go off the grid entirely.

Whisky Tango Foxtrot deals out mode
Ross Mckeen
Aug 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014, nw-writers
This is the book I wanted Dave Eggers' "The Circle" to be. The perils of big data and megalomaniacal corporations stripping us of privacy and ...well, pretty much taking over the world. This book is 100x better, starting with the three protagonists who are well written characters. Part of it takes place in Portland (where the author now lives) so you even get a chase scene that ends up in the Powell's parking garage. I would have given it 5 stars had it not been for the abrupt and incomplete end ...more
Terence M (Spring is in My Step!)
Audiobook - 15:13 hours - Narrator: Bernard Setaro Clark
0.0 stars out of 5.0
After about five hours I gave up. One critic said the novel was supposed to be "darkly comedic", but for me it was a waste of five valuable listening hours and certainly not "comedic". As my GR friend Alan commented "Just did not see the point" - nor did I.
Nov 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
I rarely review, but seeing some reviews - especially on Amazon - I felt the need to counter what seems to be a pervasive misrepresentation of the book. IT HAS AN ENDING. And in my view, it's a perfectly acceptable, even appropriate one.

<* No spoilers *> In the novel's final chapters, Shafer lays out exactly what needs to happen in order to bring the story to its logical conclusion. The actions-to-come are so explicit, in fact, that the author - wisely, I believe - has chosen to observe an age-o
Michael Creal
Sep 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A terrific read. Not only is this book beautifully written, it is filled with suspense and a special kind of humour. At the center of this spy thriller is a battle against a group pursuing its goals through an incredibly sophisticated surveillance system. It's so close
to contemporary reality that it's scary. For that reason it's more than just a spy thriller. An open ending leads us to wonder not only
what will happen to one of the central characters but what will happen to our own world.
Nicole Overmoyer
There’s a lot to say about David Shafer’s WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT.

First and most simple is that it is a novel that makes the reader think. It requires the reader to pay attention and to work at following the story. Any reader that does this will be rewarded, I promise.

Second is that the story is about three people; Leila Majnoun – a Persian-American humanitarian aid worker with a NGO in Burma, Leo Crane – the slightly off-kilter son of a board game fortune who likes pot and alcohol more than he s
Jul 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The NY Times called this the book of the summer in 2014. True for me. This one fell in the read-at-every-opportunity category. The characters are brilliant and drawn from their own rich emotional life, rather than from superficial description. What I liked best--along with the plausibility of some techno-data schemes--was the discovery of the plot via the characters. There's some mind-bending stuff going on in this book, and at times the mind-bending stuff is cast in a memorably surreal light, a ...more
Michael Martz
Feb 22, 2015 rated it liked it
This book was maddening. The first half was great, the 2nd drug on a bit and then....poof. The author takes a current tech trend (Big Data) to an extreme, pitting a good side against a bad side for what amounts to world domination. There are Gen Xers, evil business people, drugs, an international charity, monolithic computing power, sex, strange processes, and Lord knows what else involved. The writing is excellent, the dialogue great, and the story interesting. What's not to like?

Well, when yo
Jonah Gibson
Nov 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A dense, disturbing techno thriller, full of incisive social commentary, satyrical humor, and humanity. There is no ending in the traditional wrapping up of loose ends and concluding the narrative kind of way. If this is the kind of thing that bothers you, you should probably give this book a pass. Personally, I think the way it doesn't actually end is a large part of the point, and it worked rather well for me. There are three main characters with interwoven plot threads, and Shafer goes back a ...more
Raymond  Maxwell
Jan 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Read this over the holidays after hearing Nancy Pearl's review/recommendation. Not surprised it made everybody's top ten list. This book has lots of groovy ingredients: a tight but winding plot; human characters with real issues who actually "grow" during the course of the novel; a plausible conspiracy theory; a snapshot of millenials' life for history. I saw different layers that maintained the suspense: "Leila" means night in arabic and "Majnoon" means crazy, loco, insane; "Jack" Straw was edu ...more
Adrian White
I don't know about you but I like my thrillers to thrill, my entertainments to amuse, and my social commentary to tell me something I don't already know. The first half of this book was too ponderous before it really got going. Yes, we had to be introduced to the three main characters but the common feature of each of these were that they struggled with the world to the extent they thought themselves as losers. The fact that it's these losers who will save the world from the evil corporations an ...more
Aug 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audio
A huge tech company - a merge of Facebook, Apple and Google perhaps - seeks to capture everyone's data and then sell it and all other data in a New Alexandria. The Dear Diarists seek to stop this. Enter a group of typical folks from 2014 with their angst, irony and confusion. Mix all of this up and a really good slice of life comes through. Whether or not the Diarists foil the plot is beside the point. Someone 100 years from now wondering what life was like in 2014 would do well to read this boo ...more
Jun 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
The unnerving feeling of encountering writing that reflects your mind's reflexively clever, self-doubting patter.
Jed L
Dec 01, 2014 rated it did not like it
There are times when I will fly through a book, devote large amounts of time to it, stay up late, neglect other projects or chores to finish. And with such zeal you would think I would be enjoying the book. But sometimes that isn't the case. I am flying through the book just to finish it, to get to the end, to see if the author is going to be able to pull himself out of the mess that he made. That was my experience with this book. I flew through it, gobbled it up and when I was finished looked b ...more
Earnest Thompson
Sep 24, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Everyone, it seems, has a big-data-takes-over-the-world book in 'em so we all better wise up and smell the corporate coffee lest we give every last bit of our personal info to the company store and pay w/ our lives and freedoms. Or something like that. The CyberFi genre seemed more ominous a few years ago when William Gibson came out w/ his novel start ups. Last year, Dave Eggers gave us a terrifying blend of google and Facebook in The Circle but the characters seemed drawn from either the cast ...more
Dec 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
O.K., so what just happened. Oh, yeah, I finished WTF.

This book starts out like a pretty standard version of the typical sci-fi techno-thriller. There have been quite a few books in this vein -- see the books of Daniel Suarez ("Daemon", "Freedom-TM," "Influx etc".) or later Neal Stephenson (Cryptonomicon, Reamde) or Ernest Cline's "Ready Player One." Dave Eggers's "The Circle" is probably in the same category. Top secret rich-guy cabal wants to control our data, maybe kill off all the normals,
Elizabeth Shafer
Sep 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
As the author's mother, I have a special need to write an objective review, which is hard! So I'll focus on my enjoyment of details such as Leo's references to Riverside Drive, Mark's to London, and my impression that each character, in the manner of fiction, may contain traits or traces of the author. I also enjoy descriptions of the Majnoun family, particularly the interactions between mother and daughter. But most of all, I'm impressed by the author's description of the characters' efforts to ...more
Beth Jusino
Aug 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
WTF could try to take itself seriously, with all of its end-of-civilization cyber-thriller scenarios, and its multi-cultural cast of heroic characters, and its slip into the dark corers of mental illness and substance abuse. But instead of leaning into them, it leans back into a haze of disaffection and pot smoke, and takes itself--and the reader--an an over-the-top ride that pushes the boundaries of ludicrous. Maybe it's not ambitious after all.

Instead of being a book about Big Things, it succe
Dec 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Definitely not for everyone, and of course books are so subjective to review one person's fav may be another's hated. However although I felt it took a whole for the plot to get going in this novel once it started it snowballed and started to roll. Shafer's writing style is readable, but borders on stream of consciousness as he seems to have so many ideas he wants to include in the novel the prose can't really be described as crisp and precise more like a little rambly which kind of works as it ...more
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“And what about for the first eight, ten years of his life, when loving parents encouraged his obsession with dragons and secret worlds and animals in vests who poured tea and drove motorcars and who gave him to read Tolkien and Susan Cooper and the Brothers Grimm and Madeleine L’Engle and C. S. Lewis? Is a boy supposed to leave his imagination on the side of the road when he boards the bus to manhood?” 7 likes
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