Robert Beveridge's Reviews > Paranoia

Paranoia by Joseph Finder
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Jan 22, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: finished, owned-and-gave-away
Read in January, 2004

Joseph Finder, Paranoia (St. Martin's, 2004)

Joseph Finder (High Crimes, recently made into a movie)'s fifth novel is something different. Something new. From the looks of things, Finder wanted to take aspects of literature-and I'm not talking your basic modern 20th century "literary" novel here, I'm talking lit-rat-chaw-and apply it to the technothriller. Certainly as risky as anything his protagonist, Adam Cassidy, comes up with during the novel. And how does he succeed? Very well, thank you, for the most part.

Finder does for the technothriller what Hammett did for the mystery novel, though he's still something of a neophyte in places. Paranoia is a shining example of the idea that literate subtlety will always beat straight genre writing, no matter what the genre.

Adam Cassidy is your basic punk. He spends his free time drinking and doing drugs, and his work hours trying to find ways to do as little as possible. He feels more comfortable hanging out with the loading dock crew than he does in his cubicle at Wyatt Industries, being a low-level marketing goon. Because of that, when the loading dock foreman gets ready to retire, Cassidy decides to screw his company and give the guy the best possible send-off, so he pulls a couple of the appropriate numbers and gets the affair catered. Problem is, he's not quite aware of the scope of the catering, and when the bill hits the desk, Cassidy's head is about to roll. Nick Wyatt, the almost cartoonishly evil chairman of the company, gives Cassidy a choice-either go to jail for embezzlement or go to work for their main competitor, Trion Systems, and get the dirt on a top-secret Trion project. Needless to say, Cassidy chooses the latter, or we wouldn't have a novel.

Paranoia grabs you from the beginning and refuses to let go. As with any competent thriller, techno or otherwise, the plot and the pacing are strong, but that's not where the true strength of Finder's book lies. He uses subtle tricks to give insight into the characters, couches his moral lessons in dialogue (they do scrape close to the surface at times, but nothing hits you in the face with a dead haddock), and generally turns the whole thing into the kind of technothriller that Frederick Exley or Barry Hannah might have written, had they the inclination.

I was struck at first with the idea that the book's use of profanity was gratuitous, but once I figured out what Finder was doing, I took a second look and realized he was working with the precision of a jeweler. Every time you think the prose seems a little off kilter, profane or not, take another look. There's more under the surface than there seems to be. What this results in is characters drawn more strongly here than in almost any modern fiction; if Stephen King is the undisputed master of drawing characters in a few lines, Finder has quickly become the main understudy.

So why am I not hailing this the most brilliant novel to come down the pike since Kathe Koja last released something? Because I'm still not sure about the ending. I got to the bottom of page 423, turned it over, fully expecting there to be a few more sentences, and... blank space. I practically growled at the book. (I simultaneously can't wait to see and dread what Hollywood is going to do to the end of this when it gets filmed. And for the record, no one but Brian Dennehy can possibly play Nick Wyatt.) Given everything I've said above, I get the feeling I missed something along the way in that last chapter, but there's a part of me that thinks Finder tried the classic ambiguous ending, another literary risk, and it just didn't go as smoothly as the other highbrow tricks that make this novel so incredible. As it stands, the novel doesn't have loose ends, it's got an Oriental rug that comes unraveled all at once. Expect to spend a good deal of time mulling over the ending. You probably won't get anywhere, but you'll do it anyway.

As with all good thrillers, Finder packs a whole lot of twists, turns, red herrings, blue herrings, mysterious gurus, father figures, and a whole plethora of wonderful minor characters (Antwoine deserves his own book, to be sure) into these pages. Don't let the ending stop you. Read this. ****
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Frank Taranto Wow - I have no idea how you got that much out of this book. The book was full of holes , the biggest being how Andy believes in Goddard's fake son.


Ginny I'm so glad you mentioned Antwoine. He has to be my favorite character. Did he ever get his own book? :-)


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