The Futurist, by James P. Othmer

Posted: December 21, 2006 at 6:00 pm in fiction

I stopped by the library on Monday evening since I happened to be walking by, and walked out with four books. One of the books I picked up solely because of its title: The Futurist, by James P. Othmer. It’s smart and sassy with trenchant commentary on the modern world. Here’s the protagonist’s description of himself:

He sits alone in back seats and attempts candid conversations with drivers paid to accommodate. He gleans local lore from chatty bellhops, from Conde Nast Traveler. From the top steps of grand hotels he elicits profound sociological insights. From a part in the curtains of eighteenth-floor executive suites he absorbs geopolitical experience. He gets it with his healthy start breakfast from English-speaking room service waiters. From free newspapers dropped outside his door. From SpectraVision. Then he chronicles it, rolls it around in his head, and distills it down to anecdote, to conversation starter, to pithy one-liner, and finally he turns it into a highly proprietary, singularly respected worldly expertise that is utter and complete bullshit.

I really enjoyed the book, having finished it in a couple days. Othmer is apparently a former ad executive and you can tell he’s enjoying dishing out all the cynicism that he had to keep bottled up in front of his clients for years. Each chapter has a paragraph summary of former achievements of the protagonist, e.g. “He once spoke before the graduates of a Bible college in Virginia about the future of God and one week later delivered the keynote address to the Adult Video Distributors Conference in Vegas about the future of porn, and received standing ovations at both.”

The plot is a bit weak, but the ride was enjoyable, and I’d recommend it. I may even pick up a copy for myself if I ever see it at a used book store. Maybe I can use it as a guide in my on-and-off quest for pundithood.

P.S. I’ve been really enjoying this reading for fun concept. I recently read Twelve Sharp, by Janet Evanovich, the latest Stephanie Plum mystery which I borrowed from the library at 7pm on Monday and had finished reading by 10pm. Fun and frothy just like always.

I also got a couple paperbacks from the $1 rack at a used bookstore a couple weeks ago, which I then read in a few days. One was The First Immortal, by James Halperin, which I picked up because I liked The Truth Machine. This one details a near future projection of how somebody in the next few generations achieves immortality – the protagonist of the book takes advantage of cryonics to freeze himself and is resurrected with nanotech biotech genetic engineering gobbledybook. The other was Knight Moves, by Walter Jon Williams. I know of Williams through the Wild Cards series, but his solo work has been pretty nondescript. Still, it’s hard to go wrong for a dollar.

I should really think about finishing books for a while. I think I’ve got something like eight books which I have started in the past few months but haven’t finished.

P.P.S. My computer’s back up. I think I even recovered most of the files from my old hard drive that I wanted. I may be missing a few, but I probably won’t notice for a year or two.

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