Tag Archives: David Wong

Books Reviewed 2015

Here is  housekeeping post, collecting all the books reviewed here in 2015.

Looking back at this list, I see that this year saw Terry Pratchette’s last book (a wrenching experience), and new novels by old favorites Stross, Perry, Macguire, Holt, Gaiman, among others. I also read older but still good histories by Goodwin and Graeber. I read several books about banking, Papal and otherwise, and overlapping works about Italy, fictional and (supposedly) real.

Over the year, I reviewed a sampling of important books about contemporary digital life, including cryptocurrency, the “sharing economy”, social media, and “mind change”.   These works covered a spectrum from enthusiasm to dark worry, giving us much to think about. There are many more I did not have time or energy for. (I will say more on this topic in another post)

Throughout 2015 I continued my ongoing investigation of the question, “what is coworking?”, including reviews of two recent (self published) books about coworking by practitioners. (More on coworking in another post.)

Shall I name some “Best Books” out of my list? Why not?


There were so many to pick from. I mean, with Neil Gaiman in the list, how can I choose? But let me mention two that are especially memorable

Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente
Very imaginative and well written, and, for once, not so horribly dark. This book lodged in my memory more than others that are probably equally good.

Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon
Published a few years ago, but I didn’t read it until this year. A wonderful, intricate story. The flight of the parrot is still in my memory.


There were many important works about digital life, and I shall try to comment on them in another post. But three books that really hit me are:

Debt: The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber
From several years ago, but I didn’t read it until this year. Highly influential on the ‘occupy’ and other left-ish thinking. This is an astonishingly good book, and long form anthropology, to boot. Wow!

Reimagination Station: Creating a Game-Changing In-Home Coworking Space by Lori Kane
An exlectic little self-published book about “home coworking”, which I didn’t know was a thing. Kane walked the walk, and made me think in new ways about community and coworking.

Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy by Sam Maggs
Unexpected amounts of fun reading this short book. It does an old, graying nerd no end of good to see that at least some of the kids are OK. Really, really, OK.

List of books reviewed in 2015


A Darkling Sea by James L. Cambias
After Alice by Gregory Maguire
Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson
Bats of the Republic by Zachary Thomas Dodson
Book of Numbers by Joshua Cohen
Chasing the Phoenix by Michael Swanwick
Candy Apple Red by Nancy Bush
Chicks and Balances edited by Esther Friesner and John Helfers
Corsair by James L. Cambias
Count to a Trillion by John C. Wright
Diaspora by Greg Egan
Distress by Greg Egan
Electric Blue by Nancy Bush
Forty Thieves by Thomas Perry
Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits by David Wong
Get In Trouble by Kelly Link
Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear
Koko the Mighty by Kieran Shea
Luna: New Moon by Ian McDonald
Mort(e) by Robert Repino
Numero Zero by Umberto Eco
Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente
Rebirths of Tao by Wesley Chu
Redeployment by Phil Klay
Satin Island by Tom McCarthy
Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore
Seveneves by Neal Stephenson
Shark Skin Suite by Tim Dorsey
String of Beads by Thomas Perry
Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon
The Annihilation Score by Charles Stross
The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of the Year Volume Nine ed. by Jonathan Strahan
The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro
The Enchantment Emporium by Tanya Huff
The First Bad Man by Miranda July
The Fortress in Orion by Mike Resnick
The Future Falls by Tanya Huff
The Good, the Bad, and The Smug by Tom Holt
The Mark and the Void by Paul Murray
The Relic Master by Christopher Buckley
The Rook by Daniel O’Malley
The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett
The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu
The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss by Max Wirestone
The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi
The Wild Ways by Tanya Huff
Time Salvager by Wesley Chu
To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis
Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman
Ultraviolet by Nancy Bush
We Are Pirates by Daniel Handler
Witches Be Crazy by Logan J. Hunder
Zer0es by Chuck Wendig

Non Fiction

Arrival of the Fittest by Andreas Wagner
Blue Mind by Wallace J. Nichols
Debt: The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber
Digital Gold by Nathaniel Popper
Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy by Sam Maggs
God’s Bankers by Gerald Posner
LaFayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell
Let’s Be Less Stupid by Patricia Marx
Live Right and Find Happiness by Dave Barry
Merchants in the Temple by Gianluigi Nuzzi
Mind Change by Susan Greenfield
Mindsharing by Lior Zoref
Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari
No More Sink Full of Mugs by Tony Bacigalupo
Not Impossible by Mick Ebeling
Pax Technica by Phillip N. Howard
Peers, Inc by Robin Chase
Reimagination Station: Creating a Game-Changing In-Home Coworking Space by Lori Kane
Speculative Everything by Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby
Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin
The Age of Cryptocurrency by Paul Vigna and Michael J. Casey
The Art of Forgery by Noah Charney
The Next Species by Michael Tennesen
The Reputation Economy by Michael Fertik and David C. Thompson
The Social Labs Revolution by Zaid Hassan
The Ugly Renaissance by Alexander Lee
Twentyfirst Century Robot by Brian David Johnson
Women of Will:  Following the Feminine in Shakespeare’s Plays by Tina Packer


Book Reviews











Book Review: “Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits” by David Wong

Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits by David Wong

I both liked and hated this book.

The story is set in a not too distant future, a time of technological wonders and massive economic inequality, with shrunken governments and security to be found only in private armies. Most people live the lives of slaves, “contracted” to serve the wealthy. But everyone is on “Blink”, the world wide concatenation of the live streams from every web cam and drone in the world—billions of streams vying for attention, for followers, for a few minutes at the top of “Blink”. One of the best ways to get attention is to act out terrible violence for the whole world to watch in real time.

Young Zoey Ashe is suddenly thrown into a dangerous and violent mess when her absent biological father dies and leaves her control over his shady multi-billion dollar empire. Unsurprisingly, predators of all kinds descend on her, including her late father’s inner circle who, frankly, are hard to tell from the other bad guys.

She is forced to move to her father’s mansion in Tabula Ra$a, a new Las Vegas that out Vegases Vegas. The whole city is outside the jurisdiction of Utah or any state, and is run by the wealthy owners. The city is a free wheeling place, with no law other than contract law, and awash with private security, gangs, casinos, sex workers and billionaires. This is not a safe place for a 20 year old from out of town.

This is an entertaining fictional city, and Wong did a good job portraying the wild, wacky, weirdness of Tabula Ra$a. And Zoey is a plucky young woman. That part I liked.

The plot involves the fight over Zoey’s inheritance, which turns out to include new technology that enables people to implant amazing, comic book augmentations, and become superheroes. This is not a good thing to unleash on the world, and the ensuing violence certainly shows it.

I use the adjective “comic book” adisedly: much of the book is about as shallow, confusing, and violent as a bad comic book. This is the thing I really didn’t like about the book.

First of all, I had trouble getting through the boring plot that is basically one endless fight scene. The characters are pretty shallow, and they interact in trivial ways. Most of the characters are comic book villains, with little depth or understandable motive. A lot it makes no sense: the people are so stupid, the plot is full of holes.

For example, when Zoey inherits a huge fortune it is obvious that Zoey’s mother need to be protected. But no one thinks of this until it finally dawns on some dim bulb bad guys that they could pressure Zoey through her mom. Sheesh. They are all blockheads.

The bad guys trick themselves out with absurd, over the top technology, which gives them super villain powers. Worse, they act and talk like Internet trolls—except that they really can and do blow things up and kill a lot of people, just to show their own power. The “good guys” aren’t all that different, except Zoey.

Whatever point Wong might have meant to make, this stuff gets old fast. Pages and pages of extremely obnoxious “dialog” (mostly monolog), interspersed with torture, violence, and cruel destruction is hard to read. I think the story could have been told without so much detailed attention to this junk.

I particularly did not enjoy the graphic (yet unrealistic) depictions of torture. Even it you think this is justified by the story (which is arguable), why does it  need to be depicted so obsessively and in such detail? Wong is a good enough writer that he surely could have portrayed the danger and horror in a less fetishistic way.

Which leaves the question of what Wong was trying to do. He writes well, and portrays his fantasy world well. Yet his plot is dumb, and the people dumber. And he lavishes far too much attention to cruelty and violence. Why? Is this supposed to be amusing? Tintilating? Are we supposed to “learn” that trollery is wicked? Are we supposed to gear up and become “good” super heroes?

You got me.

Maybe there is no deeper idea, maybe Wong just likes this kind of story. Just like a bad video game, really.


I can’t really recommend this book.


  1. David Wong, Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits, New York, St. Martins’s Press, 2015.


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