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The Arrest

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From the award-winning author of The Feral Detective and Motherless Brooklyn  comes an utterly original postapocalyptic yarn about two siblings, the man that came between them, and a nuclear-powered super car. The Arrest isn’t post-apocalypse. It isn’t a dystopia. It isn’t a utopia. It’s just what happens when much of what we take for granted—cars, guns, computers, and airp From the award-winning author of The Feral Detective and Motherless Brooklyn  comes an utterly original postapocalyptic yarn about two siblings, the man that came between them, and a nuclear-powered super car. The Arrest isn’t post-apocalypse. It isn’t a dystopia. It isn’t a utopia. It’s just what happens when much of what we take for granted—cars, guns, computers, and airplanes, for starters—quits working. . . .  Before the Arrest, Sandy Duplessis had a reasonably good life as a screenwriter in L.A.  An old college friend and writing partner, the charismatic and malicious Peter Todbaum, had become one of the most powerful men in Hollywood. That didn’t hurt.  Now, post-Arrest, nothing is what it was. Sandy, who calls himself Journeyman, has landed in rural Maine. There he assists the butcher and delivers the food grown by his sister, Maddy, at her organic farm. But then Todbaum shows up in an extraordinary vehicle: a retrofitted tunnel-digger powered by a nuclear reactor. Todbaum has spent the Arrest smashing his way across a fragmented and phantasmagorical United States, trailing enmities all the way. Plopping back into the siblings’ life with his usual odious panache, his motives are entirely unclear.  Can it be that Todbaum wants to produce one more extravaganza? Whatever he’s up to, it may fall to Journeyman to stop him.  Written with unrepentant joy and shot through with just the right amount of contemporary dread, The Arrest is speculative fiction at its absolute finest.


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From the award-winning author of The Feral Detective and Motherless Brooklyn  comes an utterly original postapocalyptic yarn about two siblings, the man that came between them, and a nuclear-powered super car. The Arrest isn’t post-apocalypse. It isn’t a dystopia. It isn’t a utopia. It’s just what happens when much of what we take for granted—cars, guns, computers, and airp From the award-winning author of The Feral Detective and Motherless Brooklyn  comes an utterly original postapocalyptic yarn about two siblings, the man that came between them, and a nuclear-powered super car. The Arrest isn’t post-apocalypse. It isn’t a dystopia. It isn’t a utopia. It’s just what happens when much of what we take for granted—cars, guns, computers, and airplanes, for starters—quits working. . . .  Before the Arrest, Sandy Duplessis had a reasonably good life as a screenwriter in L.A.  An old college friend and writing partner, the charismatic and malicious Peter Todbaum, had become one of the most powerful men in Hollywood. That didn’t hurt.  Now, post-Arrest, nothing is what it was. Sandy, who calls himself Journeyman, has landed in rural Maine. There he assists the butcher and delivers the food grown by his sister, Maddy, at her organic farm. But then Todbaum shows up in an extraordinary vehicle: a retrofitted tunnel-digger powered by a nuclear reactor. Todbaum has spent the Arrest smashing his way across a fragmented and phantasmagorical United States, trailing enmities all the way. Plopping back into the siblings’ life with his usual odious panache, his motives are entirely unclear.  Can it be that Todbaum wants to produce one more extravaganza? Whatever he’s up to, it may fall to Journeyman to stop him.  Written with unrepentant joy and shot through with just the right amount of contemporary dread, The Arrest is speculative fiction at its absolute finest.

30 review for The Arrest

  1. 4 out of 5

    Blaine

    We tell ourselves stories in order to live. ... Their banter felt perfunctory and empty, dress rehearsal for a show that had closed years before. ... He’d come wishing to hear the truth beneath the lies, or beneath the stories, the mad pastiche—a recombinant hash of truth and untruth, of exaggeration and invention and translation, of sleight of hand, of this switched for that. The lie that tells the truth. Thanks to NetGalley and HarperCollins Publishers for sending me an ARC of The Arrest in exchang We tell ourselves stories in order to live. ... Their banter felt perfunctory and empty, dress rehearsal for a show that had closed years before. ... He’d come wishing to hear the truth beneath the lies, or beneath the stories, the mad pastiche—a recombinant hash of truth and untruth, of exaggeration and invention and translation, of sleight of hand, of this switched for that. The lie that tells the truth. Thanks to NetGalley and HarperCollins Publishers for sending me an ARC of The Arrest in exchange for an honest review. I’ve only read one other book by Mr. Lethem, Motherless Brooklyn, but I quite enjoyed it. And the description of The Arrest sounded cool, so know that I went in with high hopes. But as you may have guessed, this book did not work for me. There’s not much plot to speak of. Alexander “Sandy” Duplessis, aka The Journeyman, was visiting his sister Maddy on her organic farm in Maine when all the machines stopped working. A Hollywood screenwriter, he’s carved out a simple life for himself there, until his former boss, Peter Todbaum, shows up in a nuclear-powered supercar called The Blue Streak. Strange tension ensues. Sometimes Literary Fiction just works. It’s brilliantly written, full of richly drawn characters, social commentary and observations. And sometimes it doesn’t work. The writing is good, but the meaning is too oblique and inaccessible, the character’s actions and motivations too hard to understand, and the story seems to go nowhere. Unfortunately, The Arrest fell into this later category for me. Why did Todbaum travel across the country to find Sandy and Maddy? What was the entire story supposed to mean? I still don’t really know. The book was readable, and amusing in places, but was ultimately unsatisfying.

  2. 4 out of 5

    L.S. Popovich

    After Lethem's recent novel The Feral Detective, I didn't know what to expect. This is an unconventional post-apocalyptic novel. Contrary to the blurb, I would not call it dystopian. Apart from the metafictional antics of its screenwriter main character, it comes alive with humorous anachronisms, some subtle social commentary, stock characters, witty repartee, and most of all, luscious descriptions of a monolithic "supercar" steampunk vehicle, which actually takes up most of the "screen time" of After Lethem's recent novel The Feral Detective, I didn't know what to expect. This is an unconventional post-apocalyptic novel. Contrary to the blurb, I would not call it dystopian. Apart from the metafictional antics of its screenwriter main character, it comes alive with humorous anachronisms, some subtle social commentary, stock characters, witty repartee, and most of all, luscious descriptions of a monolithic "supercar" steampunk vehicle, which actually takes up most of the "screen time" of this cinematic book. Notably it has a desolate, and (for me) surprising ending. I would call the outlook of most of the characters bleak, but Lethem imbued his parable with enough playful language to enthuse me throughout. Definitely not a complex work like his three big novels, this falls more in line with his shorter, quirkier novels - Girl in Landscape more than As She Climbed Across the Table. He seems like a multi-layered novelist, and I am curious what he has in store for us next time. His retro-futurism works better here than elsewhere, though I think I liked Gambler's Anatomy more. The quality of the narration was as unpredictable as the world building. Most of the cataclysmic event preceding the novel's events are merely hinted at, instead of explicated. I thought the book could have gone on longer, could have turned into an interesting road novel aboard a pynchonian retro-fitted future craft, but the characters mostly sat around and philosophized. A missed opportunity, since this was the perfect set up for a truly epic novel. Why doesn't Lethem take his time, really pull out the stops and give us a work that can rival Pynchon, Philip K. Dick and other big names? Mostly, he imitates the big boys. And he does it well. Still, he has the ability and popularity to write a monolithic masterpiece - I'm still waiting, Lethem.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ionarr

    This was dull. It was really, really dull. The story reads like a first draft jotted down on a napkin, only it's... Not. I should have LOVED it, as its all things I love in a book. It's odd, and I'm a sucker for anything a bit odd. It's a post-apocalyptic story, but quite and introspective, with none of the aplomb of invasions, the terror of zombies or the imminent crises of financial or ecological collapse, although many of those are hinted at. The writing itself is disjointed, pretentious, and This was dull. It was really, really dull. The story reads like a first draft jotted down on a napkin, only it's... Not. I should have LOVED it, as its all things I love in a book. It's odd, and I'm a sucker for anything a bit odd. It's a post-apocalyptic story, but quite and introspective, with none of the aplomb of invasions, the terror of zombies or the imminent crises of financial or ecological collapse, although many of those are hinted at. The writing itself is disjointed, pretentious, and endlessly up its own arse - which again, I normally quite enjoy. But the story itself is bland and jerky and so flat. The premise was half-baked, the pacing was off, nothing about it was remotely compelling. I think the main problem was the central character, which fell hard into the literary white man trope of the middle aged, straight, white, male, ineffectual character as default, who can therefore be safely used to tell all these stories - only this character wasn't default, he was just utterly boring, completely flat and stripped of anything that might make him feel like a person. At the same time, the whole book was about him, so it was just page after page of detached, empty ghost, endlessly moralising despite having no morals to speak of. In the words of the book, it's "less of a serial, more a run of half-baked existentialist fugues." Maybe that's the point of the book. Maybe it's great literature and I was just too bored to notice it, like when I forced to read endless Thomas Hardy at school. But at least things happened in Hardy novels - I could see the point, even if I didn't love them myself. If this has a point to make, it's too vague for me; and frankly no point is worth this much boredom. 1 star, mostly for what the book could have been if done well, and my destroyed hopes for it.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ron Charles

    “Some say the world will end in fire,” Robert Frost wrote, “Some say in ice.” But in this era of terrifying dystopias, Jonathan Lethem imagines a kinder, gentler apocalypse: no pandemic laying waste to humanity, no asteroid shattering the Earth, no zombies snacking on us. In Lethem’s new novel, “The Arrest,” all technology simply grinds to a halt. Y2K programmed us to fear that such a stoppage would spark worldwide panic. After all, when the power goes out in Don DeLillo’s new novel, “The Silence, “Some say the world will end in fire,” Robert Frost wrote, “Some say in ice.” But in this era of terrifying dystopias, Jonathan Lethem imagines a kinder, gentler apocalypse: no pandemic laying waste to humanity, no asteroid shattering the Earth, no zombies snacking on us. In Lethem’s new novel, “The Arrest,” all technology simply grinds to a halt. Y2K programmed us to fear that such a stoppage would spark worldwide panic. After all, when the power goes out in Don DeLillo’s new novel, “The Silence,” the guests at a Super Bowl party in Manhattan immediately go stark-raving mad. But that catastrophe looks different in Lethem’s vision. Expecting the terror of darkness, we find instead the sepia tones of candlelight. “The Gmail, the texts and swipes and FaceTimes, the tweets and likes, these suffered colony collapse disorder,” he writes. Yes, cars and guns and elevators stop functioning, but if there’s widespread suffering and starving, it must be happening far away, and without electronic communication. . . . To read the rest of this review, go to The Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/entert...

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jamie

    "Dystopia and postapocalypse, two great tastes that taste great together." The world as we know it ends. For no particular reason, or maybe all of them, everything just stops. In Jonathan Lethem's The Arrest, the why of it is hardly the point. The point is that our world shrinks. Way, way down, to a tiny little sliver of its former glory. Yet, still, those parts of your life you'd rather forget can follow you anywhere. Sometimes, literally. Like tracking you down in a nuclear powered, tunnel bori "Dystopia and postapocalypse, two great tastes that taste great together." The world as we know it ends. For no particular reason, or maybe all of them, everything just stops. In Jonathan Lethem's The Arrest, the why of it is hardly the point. The point is that our world shrinks. Way, way down, to a tiny little sliver of its former glory. Yet, still, those parts of your life you'd rather forget can follow you anywhere. Sometimes, literally. Like tracking you down in a nuclear powered, tunnel boring supercar from coast to coast. The Arrest has the feel of a dream. A protagonist, Journeyman, AKA Sandy, AKA Alexander Duplessis, who, timid and introverted, seems perpetually one step behind, out of the loop, not quite in control of his own destiny. Journeyman has a problem in the form of his irksome, manipulative, slightly demented and megolomaniac yet charismatic frenemy, Peter Todbaum. It's a weird relationship, this. Like a shark and remora, only in reverse. Peter's presence threatens to turn his nice, sleepy post-apocalyptic paradise into a real you-know-what show. "Wonder, wonder, such things to wonder over. How had it all come to exactly this? When would Journeyman figure it out, if not now? Here in the oasis of time at the end of the world? Yet since Todbaum’s arrival, time had perhaps restarted. Todbaum was his own ticking clock; he carried deadlines, crises. Worse than a clock. A ticking bomb." Lethem's prose is pithy, evocative and genuine, fantastically capturing the nuances of Journeymen's fraught, unbalanced relationships with his friend and his sister. A real pleasure. Full of a foreboding sense of a less than sublime past about to catch up with the here and now, a balance and serenity about to be shattered. Waiting for true intentions to be revealed and the other shoe to drop. Will there be war? A personal reckoning? Maybe some of both. * I received an advanced review copy of The Arrest in exchange for a fair and honest review.

  6. 5 out of 5

    StarMan

    [Won in Goodreads.com giveaway. Thank you, Mr Lethem, for making pre-publication copies available.] I read an UNCORRECTED PROOF. The final printed version (expected publication 10 November 2020) may be slightly or substantially different. Keep this in mind when reading any less-than-positive comments below. IN SHORT: Hey, this post-Apocalypse isn't so terrib--oh wait, now some a$$hole we used to know just showed up. PLOT SUMMARY: An apocalyptic A mysterious, slow-happening, never-explained event [Won in Goodreads.com giveaway. Thank you, Mr Lethem, for making pre-publication copies available.] I read an UNCORRECTED PROOF. The final printed version (expected publication 10 November 2020) may be slightly or substantially different. Keep this in mind when reading any less-than-positive comments below. IN SHORT: Hey, this post-Apocalypse isn't so terrib--oh wait, now some a$$hole we used to know just showed up. PLOT SUMMARY: An apocalyptic A mysterious, slow-happening, never-explained event ("The Arrest") results in the main character/narrator and his sister living in a small town devoid of electricty and other niceties. Someone from their past shows up unexpectedly, and things get slightly more interesting. If you are expecting thrills, danger, starvation, plagues, creatures, big plot twists, and answers to some pressing questions... well, this ain't a book for you. If you enjoy slower, character-based stories in slightly odd settings/futures, and people who can't communicate properly... this could be an excellent match for you. VERDICT: 2.25 stars (3 stars minus demerits for multiple unanswered questions and supremely slow pace).

  7. 4 out of 5

    Katie Bruell

    Reading this reminded me why I don't read white males anymore. All the main characters are white males. There are some women, but they're only there to react to what they men do, they don't really have much agency, thought, etc. of their own. Oh, and there's one non-white person in the whole book. A few gay characters thrown in, maybe to make the author seem open minded? Anyway, I gave up 2/3 of the way in. I don't really care what happens to any of the characters. Reading this reminded me why I don't read white males anymore. All the main characters are white males. There are some women, but they're only there to react to what they men do, they don't really have much agency, thought, etc. of their own. Oh, and there's one non-white person in the whole book. A few gay characters thrown in, maybe to make the author seem open minded? Anyway, I gave up 2/3 of the way in. I don't really care what happens to any of the characters.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    The book description was very interesting. What would happen if our cars, airplanes computers etc. stop working. I didn't finish this book. I got lost in the language and the description. It reminded me of some of the less popular Dean Koontz books that describe every detail. I don't enjoy exposition, I want the story to move along. I give this book 1 star because I didn't finish it. The book description was very interesting. What would happen if our cars, airplanes computers etc. stop working. I didn't finish this book. I got lost in the language and the description. It reminded me of some of the less popular Dean Koontz books that describe every detail. I don't enjoy exposition, I want the story to move along. I give this book 1 star because I didn't finish it.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Patrick

    It's the summer of 2020, I don't need to read a novel about a dystopian world with an uncertain future, I can turn on CNN, or watch a city council meeting about masks. I read this book anyway, because Jonathan Lethem's name is on it (Well, he wrote it. If you wrote his name on 50 Shades of Grey, I probably wouldn't read it.) (No offense 50 Shades fans.) and I was not disappointed. Something happened to turn off all electrical equipment and break almost all appliances. We don't know what the event It's the summer of 2020, I don't need to read a novel about a dystopian world with an uncertain future, I can turn on CNN, or watch a city council meeting about masks. I read this book anyway, because Jonathan Lethem's name is on it (Well, he wrote it. If you wrote his name on 50 Shades of Grey, I probably wouldn't read it.) (No offense 50 Shades fans.) and I was not disappointed. Something happened to turn off all electrical equipment and break almost all appliances. We don't know what the event was. We just know that Sandy Duplessis used to be a script doctor, and now he's a butcher's assistant/delivery person living in his sister's commune-like town in rural Maine. We go back and forth from his current arrested circumstances to his life in Hollywood working for Peter Todbaum. Well, they started as colleagues, then Peter made it huge and Sandy just worked for him. Suddenly in the present Todbaum shows up in town with a nuclear powered impossible super car and things go... well. They go somewhere. Lethem's writing style is always so easy to jump in and savor the words. The characters are bright and fun to investigate. He has an ability to create a full picture of a character with very few words, and that sticks with you each time the character returns. I liked the meta analysis of dystopian movie/literature where Todbaum says authors who create these worlds want to live there. And, there's something to be said for that I think Lethem did create a world people would want to live in, but he made it clear it wasn't a happy one in spite of some really dank buds - “We lost people. Every one of us lost someone we loved.” The structure of the story itself was interesting. Jumping from after The Arrest to before filled some holes in information, while leaving plenty open to speculate. But, even of the speculation, like what happened to cause the Arrest? The book doesn't spend a lot of time caring about that. And, therefore, neither did I. Something happened. It doesn't matter what. Is what the characters seemed to think, as well as this reader. Lethem's style, in this novel at least, made for a quick read. The chapters were short, and I was always eager to read the next one to see what happened next. I enjoyed the world and characters he created. Some of them stuck with me well after I stopped reading the book. Thanks to Netgalley for supplying a copy of this book. It didn't affect my review.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    Thanks to Harper Collins for the ARC. I promise honest, not nice, so here goes. If Jonathan Franzen were to write a post-apocalyptic novel, it might be something like this. Many people would consider a comparison to Jonathan Franzen a compliment. I am not one of them. If I want disaffected modern Americans with an unhealthy amount of ennui in my fantasy novels, I’ll stick to Lev Grossman. He does it much better, and I feel like I’m supposed to want to punch Quentin in the face. This is set in pres Thanks to Harper Collins for the ARC. I promise honest, not nice, so here goes. If Jonathan Franzen were to write a post-apocalyptic novel, it might be something like this. Many people would consider a comparison to Jonathan Franzen a compliment. I am not one of them. If I want disaffected modern Americans with an unhealthy amount of ennui in my fantasy novels, I’ll stick to Lev Grossman. He does it much better, and I feel like I’m supposed to want to punch Quentin in the face. This is set in present-day Maine, but in a world where technology abruptly stopped working - this would be the titular “Arrest.” No explanation is given, which I’m actually fine with - that’s what the book is about. The protagonist is Alexander Duplessis, known to most as Sandy. When the Arrest happened, he was visiting his sister on her organic farm on the coast of Maine. Given the area’s pre-Arrest propensity towards affluent crunch-granola hippies, they weathered the transition more than most. The protagonist’s sister, for example, pretty much just rolled up her sleeves and kept doing what she was doing. They have a nice little idyllic community going, truth be told; Sandy’s skills as a screenwriter aren’t really in demand, but he finds a niche as assistant butcher and general delivery man. Things take an interesting turn when an old “friend” of the protagonist (and incidental one-night-stand of the protagonist’s sister) arrives in a nuclear powered supercar, the only piece of technology that’s working. He’s asking for the protagonist and his sister, but no one knows why, nor why he crossed the country to find them. So now we get into the pretentious stuff, and everything that is clearly supposed to be have meaning. The protagonist refers to himself as “Journeyman,” but he’s never told anyone this nickname as far as I could tell. Among the deliveries he makes is food supplies to a local pedophile, exiled from the town proper for his crimes, who considers Journeyman his only friend and talks with him a lot about classical Japanese books. There’s a woman who moved into the library; Journeyman doesn’t know her name, but he’s got a crush on her. Journeyman, as I said, is an ex-screenwriter, who specialized in converting failing projects into soulless things that make some kind of profit. His friend is a Hollywood producer with distinct Harvey Weinstein vibes. I could go on and on and on. It’s all meant to be so deep, so symbolic, and it just left me feeling so pissed off (except for Journeyman’s friend, who left me wanting a shower, but that was clearly the author’s intention). Throw in way too much space devoted to decrying modern life, with its Facebook likes and search engine optimization and e-books and email and digital watches and the no-good kids with their hippity-hop music and pants falling down (Franzen’s schtick, in other words) and I just felt so, so patronized. Would not recommend, but hey, if you like Franzen and you like spec fic, maybe this’ll be for you.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Drew

    A solid, if ultimately likely unmemorable, curio from Lethem. This one feels a lot like his early stuff, like GIRL IN LANDSCAPE early, in its brash insistence on being its own thing and damn the torpedoes. It's slight, pulling back when it maybe ought to push forward, but it shouldn't surprise anybody that Lethem isn't interested in traditional apocalypses. He's interested in stories, in inner thoughts, in a weird idea that runs til it can't any longer (not unlike the super-car...) and that's goo A solid, if ultimately likely unmemorable, curio from Lethem. This one feels a lot like his early stuff, like GIRL IN LANDSCAPE early, in its brash insistence on being its own thing and damn the torpedoes. It's slight, pulling back when it maybe ought to push forward, but it shouldn't surprise anybody that Lethem isn't interested in traditional apocalypses. He's interested in stories, in inner thoughts, in a weird idea that runs til it can't any longer (not unlike the super-car...) and that's good enough. Loved the references to THE PILLOW BOOK (I was lucky enough to talk to him about that book when he was on SMDB a few years ago) and the winking note that this book maybe takes place in the same universe as CHRONIC CITY. And I had fun with this, on a cold November morning, which is about all a body needs sometimes.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jen

    ** I read an advance reader copy of this book that I won through a Goodreads giveaway. ** This book was really neither good nor bad. It just existed. The writing was a bit pretentious and not what I generally like. The main character had no personality or reason for existing. It was rather like reading the diary of some dull survivor of a not-so-serious apocalypse who had no difficulties and ran into very little trouble. This probably makes this a more realistic apocalypse book in many ways but i ** I read an advance reader copy of this book that I won through a Goodreads giveaway. ** This book was really neither good nor bad. It just existed. The writing was a bit pretentious and not what I generally like. The main character had no personality or reason for existing. It was rather like reading the diary of some dull survivor of a not-so-serious apocalypse who had no difficulties and ran into very little trouble. This probably makes this a more realistic apocalypse book in many ways but it's not what I was expecting nor what I look for in a story. I'm sure it will appeal to many readers. Just wasn't my cup of tea.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Angus McKeogh

    Dystopian novel about the world after “The Arrest” of progress. One of his recent books that I actually enjoyed quite a bit. Before this effort my feeling was that Lethem had stumbled upon a bit of a dry spell and I was doubting his ability to return to prominence.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Dollie

    My thanks to NetGalley and HarperCollins for allowing me to read this e-proof. I was excited to get a chance to read it because I always love to read books that take place in Maine. I live just down the road from a fictional town called ‘Salem’s Lot, which totally creeped me out whenever I read the book. Olive Kittridge lives somewhere here in Maine, too. The Arrest takes place in the fictional town of Tinderwick, located on a peninsula on the Atlantic, a few hours up the coast from where I live My thanks to NetGalley and HarperCollins for allowing me to read this e-proof. I was excited to get a chance to read it because I always love to read books that take place in Maine. I live just down the road from a fictional town called ‘Salem’s Lot, which totally creeped me out whenever I read the book. Olive Kittridge lives somewhere here in Maine, too. The Arrest takes place in the fictional town of Tinderwick, located on a peninsula on the Atlantic, a few hours up the coast from where I live. The main character is a man named Alexander Duplessis, aka Sandy, aka Journeyman. Journeyman was friends with a man named Peter Todbaum when they were in college. Then they worked together as writers out on the West Coast, but now Journeyman lives in Tinderwick. There are no roads, no cars, no electricity, no USPS, no courts – all the things we Americans take for granted every day. The town is surrounded by “The Cordon.” It’s pretty much up to everybody to be self-sufficient and everyone tends to look after their neighbors and each has their own job to do. Journeyman's job is delivering food on his bicycle. One day this giant vehicle run by nuclear energy shows up in town and the driver is none other than Journeyman’s old friend, Peter Todbaum. Todbaum becomes very popular because he tells stories and has espresso. He’s no longer Journeyman’s friend, though. Eventually the town becomes wary of Todbaum and take matters into their own hands when members of The Cordon decide they want Todbaum’s vehicle. This is the only book I’ve ever read by Mr. Lethem and I found his writing to be good, but there wasn’t a heck of a lot of action in the book until the end. My main problem with this story is that I just didn’t understand it. After finishing the story, I felt the same way I did after watching the movie, Cloud Atlas - I just didn’t get it. There weren’t a lot of characters, but the only ones I had any kind of opinion about were Journeyman and Drenka, both of whom I liked. I couldn’t relate to anyone else and I could never figure out what Jerome Kormentz’s place was in the story. I didn’t dislike or like this story and I actually spent a lot of time thinking about it, just trying to figure out what it was supposed to be about.

  15. 4 out of 5

    WY_reader

    This book was both too much and not enough. Too much: The writing is possibly the most pretentious I've encountered. It gets better (or just bearable) after the first 50 pages, but those first few chapters were a slog. Not enough: The title of this book references something that's hinted to be an EMP-type doomsday scenario. But it's only hinted at. Supposedly we don't know any more about it because the main character doesn't know any more about it, but that strains belief as the main character wa This book was both too much and not enough. Too much: The writing is possibly the most pretentious I've encountered. It gets better (or just bearable) after the first 50 pages, but those first few chapters were a slog. Not enough: The title of this book references something that's hinted to be an EMP-type doomsday scenario. But it's only hinted at. Supposedly we don't know any more about it because the main character doesn't know any more about it, but that strains belief as the main character was a screenwriter of science fiction movies in Hollywood before the event. He apparently never wonders about the physics of it all, but the reader does. ***Spoilers below*** For example, all the guns have stopped working. There is even mention that you could deliberately try to ignite gunpowder but it won't light. Why?! Guns and gunpowder existed for centuries before screen technology. Why do they stop working just because electronics have? And there is a steam-powered blowtorch (I don't get it either), so apparently some things in this world are still combustable, just not gunpowder or fossil fuels. For that matter, if they can have a steam-powered blowtorch, why can't they have an engine and get trains up and running? Perhaps the author didn't want this to be the focus of the novel, but the novel is called "The Arrest". The fact that it seems we could pick up this story and place it in a world where the Arrest didn't happen means there is a major disconnect between the intended focus of this story and its execution. Disclaimer: I won an Advanced Reading Copy from a Goodreads Giveaway. The final edition may differ from that which I reviewed. All opinions are my own.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sam Jack

    At the library where I work, there are quite a few patrons who enjoy a sub-genre called "cozy mystery," where somebody usually gets murdered, but other than the murder, everything is very pleasant and nice. With "The Arrest," Jonathan Lethem has written a sort of cozy post-apocalyptic novel. The world has ended, but other than that, everything is pretty much just fine. People are unhappy, but they seem to be unhappy in the familiar 21st century ways. The town therapist is kept very busy, and he At the library where I work, there are quite a few patrons who enjoy a sub-genre called "cozy mystery," where somebody usually gets murdered, but other than the murder, everything is very pleasant and nice. With "The Arrest," Jonathan Lethem has written a sort of cozy post-apocalyptic novel. The world has ended, but other than that, everything is pretty much just fine. People are unhappy, but they seem to be unhappy in the familiar 21st century ways. The town therapist is kept very busy, and he accepts payment in the form of fresh produce and baked goods. The book is set amid a community of organic farmers in Maine who, conveniently, already have most of the agricultural and survival skills they need in order to survive in relative comfort when guns, fossil fuels, computers and other advanced technologies mysteriously stop functioning. This novel is witty, erudite and at times thought-provoking, but it is also flat, and frustrating. Some readers might find it altogether unrewarding. Perhaps our desire for the gratification of relatable characters, involving plot and satisfying conclusion is being intentionally frustrated, given that two of the central characters are bitter and sociopathic (respectively) TV/movie makers. All four of the female characters in the book are nearly interchangeable in their inscrutability, and all are pretty shallowly drawn, without much insight into their interiority. One of the women is initially referred to as "the woman in the library," and another, who we only hear about second-hand, is referred to as "Pittsburgh," which is not her name. This, I think, is a weakness of the book any way you look at it. To be fair to Lethem, we're not invited to get close to the male characters either. The only characters we get to spend much time with are the protagonist, Sandy Duplessis, and his friend/nemesis, the repellent Peter Todbaum. Jonathan Lethem is a wonderfully skillful writer, and this book is engaging enough on the sentence and paragraph level that I kept reading and finished it with ease. But if you start this book with the expectations of the typical science fiction reader, you will have to either adjust, give up, or risk disappointment. Several plot strands that seem like they might "pay off" in the usual science-fictional ways end up not doing so. Instead, rather like "The Pillow Book" of Sei Shonagon (a recurring literary reference in this novel), they just drift away on the wind.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Anneke

    Book Review: The Arrest Author: Jonathan Lethem Publisher: HarperCollins Ecco Publication Date: November 10, 2020 Review Date: November 4, 2020 From the blurb: “From the award-winning author of The Feral Detective and Motherless Brooklyn comes an utterly original post-collapse yarn about two siblings, the man that came between them, and a nuclear-powered super car. The Arrest isn’t post-apocalypse. It isn’t a dystopia. It isn’t a utopia. It’s just what happens when much of what we take for granted—cars Book Review: The Arrest Author: Jonathan Lethem Publisher: HarperCollins Ecco Publication Date: November 10, 2020 Review Date: November 4, 2020 From the blurb: “From the award-winning author of The Feral Detective and Motherless Brooklyn comes an utterly original post-collapse yarn about two siblings, the man that came between them, and a nuclear-powered super car. The Arrest isn’t post-apocalypse. It isn’t a dystopia. It isn’t a utopia. It’s just what happens when much of what we take for granted—cars, guns, computers, and airplanes, for starters—quits working. . . .  Before the Arrest, Sandy Duplessis had a reasonably good life as a screenwriter in L.A.  An old college friend and writing partner, the charismatic and malicious Peter Todbaum, had become one of the most powerful men in Hollywood. That didn’t hurt.  Now, post-Arrest, nothing is what it was. Sandy, who calls himself Journeyman, has landed in rural Maine. There he assists the butcher and delivers the food grown by his sister, Maddy, at her organic farm. But then Todbaum shows up in an extraordinary vehicle: a retrofitted tunnel-digger powered by a nuclear reactor. Todbaum has spent the Arrest smashing his way across a fragmented and phantasmagorical United States, trailing enmities all the way. Plopping back into the siblings’ life with his usual odious panache, his motives are entirely unclear.  Can it be that Todbaum wants to produce one more extravaganza? Whatever he’s up to, it may fall to Journeyman to stop him.  Written with unrepentant joy and shot through with just the right amount of contemporary dread, The Arrest is speculative fiction at its absolute finest. —— I could not get past the first few pages of this book. I could not figure out what was happening, who was who, and what the basic premise of the book was. I know Jonathan Lethem is a highly regarded author. But I will pass on this book. It takes too much work, and bottom line, I was clueless about what was happening in the story. I give it 1 Star, and DO NOT Recommend. At least don’t buy; if you really want to read it, get it from the library. Thank you for HarperCollins/Ecco for approving me for this book, despite my apparently poor reading skills. Good luck to Mr. Lethem to his continued literary career. This review will be posted on NetGalley, Goodreads, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. #netgalley #thearrest #jonathanlethem

  18. 5 out of 5

    Marzie

    Jonathan Lethem's The Arrest is an odd take on a muted post-apocalyptic future after The Arrest, an extended event during which all tech, from TV to the internet to cell phones, stop working. The protagonist, Alexander "Sandy" Dupless is left stranded (vehicles using conventional fuel don't work either) up in New England near his sister, Maddy Duplessis, and her organic farm commune (which is a generous term for it, given how feudal it all seems) in Maine. At one time, before The Arrest, Sandy a Jonathan Lethem's The Arrest is an odd take on a muted post-apocalyptic future after The Arrest, an extended event during which all tech, from TV to the internet to cell phones, stop working. The protagonist, Alexander "Sandy" Dupless is left stranded (vehicles using conventional fuel don't work either) up in New England near his sister, Maddy Duplessis, and her organic farm commune (which is a generous term for it, given how feudal it all seems) in Maine. At one time, before The Arrest, Sandy and his former roommate from Yale, Peter Todbaum, we're living out in Hollywood, trying to write the greatest post-apocalyptic dystopian screenplay ever. A brief encounter between Todbaum and Maddy seems to have set off a series of changes and ultimately Sandy, who was deeply unsettled by his sister's involvement with Todbaum, has landed in Maine, working as a journeyman (think more like a UPS delivery guy, delivering food, news, and more) in their small community which tries to thrive despite the titular Arrest. And it was all going along swimmingly, for the most part, until Todbaum shows up in a vehicle called The Blue Streak (think a nuclear-powered tank) asking for Sandy and Maddy and setting off a fatal chain of events. There are elements of this story, including its gentle apocalypse that has ended modern life as we know it, that offer great bones for a story. The characters here left me cold sadly, and I honestly struggled to finish the novel, finally buying the audiobook to do so. Lethem's prose is always sharp-edged and crisp, but sometimes I just have difficulty feeling engaged with his characters. I didn't really like anyone in the novel other than the elusive secondary character Drenka. That lack of caring made it hard for me to care about what would happen to the principal characters and the novel's outcome. The audiobook is nicely narrated by Robert Fass. I received a digital review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Peter Baran

    Jonathon Lethem has carved himself out a comfortable hole in the literary pop culture crossover sphere. Starting with high concept low weirdness science fiction and then hitting big with Motherless Brooklyn, he has always been pretty very readable but sometimes the big ideas get lost in asides and diversions. The Arrest (which is a distracting name for a post-technology dystopian piece) knows that its field is crowded, and so needs to get some digs or acknowledge the competition (Cormac McCarthy Jonathon Lethem has carved himself out a comfortable hole in the literary pop culture crossover sphere. Starting with high concept low weirdness science fiction and then hitting big with Motherless Brooklyn, he has always been pretty very readable but sometimes the big ideas get lost in asides and diversions. The Arrest (which is a distracting name for a post-technology dystopian piece) knows that its field is crowded, and so needs to get some digs or acknowledge the competition (Cormac McCarthy's The Road gets the main kicking here). Having a lead character called (or self referred to - no-one else calls him it) Journeyman is also a bit too cute. Our lead is just that, a Journeyman writer, a script doctor, someone who turns other ideas into the finished item - a quintessential middleman. Here he is, stuck in Maine with few useful skills but living at his sisters biodversity farm when technology stops working, and he narrates some of his past (a quippy Hollywood takedown) with the present - both revolving around his old partner in crime Todbaum. We are years into the dystopia and Todbaum - who also had a fling with Journeyman's sister, turns up in his indestructible nuclear powered car. Lethem isn't interested in the science of course, "technology stops working" is a standard what if to provide conflict. All technology stopping working except this one self sustainable nuclear powered Supercar (as known) is a wry gag and one which only partially works. In cocking a snook at the Handmaid's Tale and The Road, he also cocks a snook at his own story - which is a little bit of a pity because despite (and sometime because) of the self-deprecating knowingness it has a solid central question at heart. In the kingdom of the technology free, is the man with the Supercar King? There is also a meta-question which Lethem does tease nicely, in a Hollywood and culture industry that seems so obsessed with post-apocalypses, what good has it done us (do we create the dystopias we deserve)? There is definately an amorphous set of rampaging baddies (the Cordon) who are straight out of Mad Max central casting. All of this suggests I didn't enjoy which is not true, though I disliked having the games being played being made quite so obvious in places. There is a slight fear of sincerity here, I wonder if played completely straight if it would have worked better. But equally the wry asides, the moment of nowness (which admittedly feels a little dated already what with everything) might be lost.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Linda McCutcheon

    "...he might simply be lonely. Journeyman was crazy with loneliness or lonely with craziness...some days Journeyman thought the world had been crazy and tried to go sane: that was The Arrest." I think the above is as close as I came to understanding The Arrest by Jonathan Lethem. The book is about an event referred to as The Arrest where all technology just stopped one day around the world. There are no cell phones, TV, or microwave ovens. We never really learn what caused the event. Sandy aka Jou "...he might simply be lonely. Journeyman was crazy with loneliness or lonely with craziness...some days Journeyman thought the world had been crazy and tried to go sane: that was The Arrest." I think the above is as close as I came to understanding The Arrest by Jonathan Lethem. The book is about an event referred to as The Arrest where all technology just stopped one day around the world. There are no cell phones, TV, or microwave ovens. We never really learn what caused the event. Sandy aka Journeyman use to be a Hollywood screenwriter doctor who helped scripts be made into movies. Now there are no movies and he lives a quiet life in Maine with his sister helping her on her farm and delivering supplies to locals. All that changes when his old boss shows up driving a nuclear powered car and turns Sandy's life upside-down. The author sublimely makes important points about how technology has taken over our lives, how people should be together and not adrift from one another, and how we find ways to survive despite all the obstacles in our way. The book reminded me of the movie Mad Max but if everyone was a little less angry and more mellow. Sandy is our quiet hero and there are some bad guys who want the powerful car and that's the major conflict. The writer tells his story in very short crisp sentences. This method can often work when trying to make a point but for a whole book I found it distracting to read. I know some elements probably went over my head but what I did decipher kept me confusingly entertained most of the time. I received a free copy of this book from the publishers via NetGalley for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

    This review originally published in Looking For a Good book. Rated 2.0 of 5 Sandy Duplessis was living a good life. He was living in Los Angeles and working as a screenwriter. His writing partner is his old college friend Peter Todbaum, and the charismatic Todbaum has become a king on the Hollywood scene - everyone listens to him and wants a piece of his action. When Sandy's sister Maddy comes to town, Todbaum finds himself quite attracted to her. Then came the 'Arrest' when everything just stops This review originally published in Looking For a Good book. Rated 2.0 of 5 Sandy Duplessis was living a good life. He was living in Los Angeles and working as a screenwriter. His writing partner is his old college friend Peter Todbaum, and the charismatic Todbaum has become a king on the Hollywood scene - everyone listens to him and wants a piece of his action. When Sandy's sister Maddy comes to town, Todbaum finds himself quite attracted to her. Then came the 'Arrest' when everything just stops and only those able to adapt successfully move on. Duplessis, now called Journeyman, finds himself in Maine, farming with his sister when Todbaum shows up in a nuclear-powered tunnel-digging machine. He's still charismatic and still scheming to stay at the top of a now-dead Hollywood scene. Is Journeyman the only force on earth who can keep Todbaum under control? My first couple of chapters into this book and I was almost giddy with excitement at reading something very different. This is science fiction on par with Kurt Vonnegut and Margaret Atwood ... authors we don't normally classify as sci-fi writers, though we probably should. But my giddiness turned to boredom somewhere about a quarter or a third of the way in. There's a lot of observation and a lot of reflection on the part of Journeyman, and very little action taken on that observation. The story is post-apocalyptic and dystopian ... and at the same time, it isn't. The Arrest, and the causes of the Arrest, are never really discussed. What's important is only that it happened. It's more about setting a bleak landscape for Journeyman to observe from than it is about a world devastated and what is happening in it. I knew nothing about author Jonathan Lethem prior to this, but when I read the description of the book, I was highly interested in reading this, but the deeper I got into the book, the less interest I had. Looking for a good book? The Arrest by Jonathan Lethem is slow, passive sci-fi, which may appeal to some, but became less interesting the further I read. I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Philip Begg

    The cover immediately caught my eye and you can definitely judge part of a book by the cover. This image of this futuristic supercar crashing into and trying to take centre stage in an 'Arrested' organic farming seaside town alone, made me ignore the bad reviews and start reading this as my last book of my year's challenge. Well, I'm glad I did because, while the book may be lacking a bit of edge of sorts in it's plot, it definitely makes up for that by painting a detailed view of life within a The cover immediately caught my eye and you can definitely judge part of a book by the cover. This image of this futuristic supercar crashing into and trying to take centre stage in an 'Arrested' organic farming seaside town alone, made me ignore the bad reviews and start reading this as my last book of my year's challenge. Well, I'm glad I did because, while the book may be lacking a bit of edge of sorts in it's plot, it definitely makes up for that by painting a detailed view of life within a new world without modern technology. Honestly, reading this I was just delighted to be given access to step into this very cinematic world. Seeing the function of the town in the arrested world and simply how life always goes on was oddly comforting to read in a climate currently so driven by technological advancements. Obviously that comfort is with the town politics aside. Overall I would recommend this book, from the stripped back new world to the fast moving chapters, this book was just very enjoyable.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Joann

    An interesting read during an interesting time in our world. The Arrest is a time when everything in the world just stopped working. We never really learn why this happened just that it did. I was really interested in this event, and would have liked to hear more about it. We pick up in a new "society" in New England with a guard group and a farming self sustaining group. They seem to have things pretty worked out amongst themselves. Until an old friend shows up in what he calls "The Blue Streak An interesting read during an interesting time in our world. The Arrest is a time when everything in the world just stopped working. We never really learn why this happened just that it did. I was really interested in this event, and would have liked to hear more about it. We pick up in a new "society" in New England with a guard group and a farming self sustaining group. They seem to have things pretty worked out amongst themselves. Until an old friend shows up in what he calls "The Blue Streak". This is his nuclear powered vehicle that is almost sci fi in nature with its' numerous details. The entry of this vehicle and its' occupant causes quite a stir, and all sorts of ripple effects occur. This was a quick read, definitely futuristic in nature, but eerily mirroring some parts of our current world. I enjoyed it, but it was a little lacking in some background details and information to make me fall in absolute love with it.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Geonn Cannon

    I'm annoyed when a blurb says a book is an "utterly original" example of a genre, then the actual book turns out to be a fairly generic entry. It's almost like the author is ashamed to say they wrote a X-type book so they want to say "This ain't your granddaddy's dystopia!!" to make it seem different. It's not bad. It's actually pretty decent, and I'd recommend reading it if you like post-apocalyptic type novels. It's a quick read and the characters are well-drawn. But man, it just irks me when I'm annoyed when a blurb says a book is an "utterly original" example of a genre, then the actual book turns out to be a fairly generic entry. It's almost like the author is ashamed to say they wrote a X-type book so they want to say "This ain't your granddaddy's dystopia!!" to make it seem different. It's not bad. It's actually pretty decent, and I'd recommend reading it if you like post-apocalyptic type novels. It's a quick read and the characters are well-drawn. But man, it just irks me when a book is ashamed of what it is. It name-drops books like Station Eleven and A Canticle for Leibowitz, so just... be proud of your contribution to the post-apocalyptic landscape!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    I love Lethem's style. This book is about fear, relationships, family dynamics, not knowing who you are or what you should do with your life, how the circumstances of life determine what your choices are, how your personality determines what your choices are, the role of technology in our lives, the power of storytelling to impact our view of the world.... etc., etc. What it isn't about: understanding exactly what the Arrest was or why it is allowing some types of technology and not others. Clea I love Lethem's style. This book is about fear, relationships, family dynamics, not knowing who you are or what you should do with your life, how the circumstances of life determine what your choices are, how your personality determines what your choices are, the role of technology in our lives, the power of storytelling to impact our view of the world.... etc., etc. What it isn't about: understanding exactly what the Arrest was or why it is allowing some types of technology and not others. Clearly not the point. He's set up a world and the reader has to enter in, and live there. Which you can do if you get the idea of "willing suspension of disbelief," a phrase I learned in high school English class (thank you, Mrs. Pfaff!) I fear young readers today are not equipped to "get" anything that isn't fully explained. If you want realism, don't read Lethem's speculative fiction. As for the while male author perspective - I didn't find it at all problematic here. The main character, Sandy/Journeyman, is complex and sort of pathetic, but also I was rooting for him. His sister, Maddy, is a mysterious powerhouse throughout the novel.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan Hawpe

    You might call the genre that The Arrest fits into "semi-apocalyptic" or "anti-apocalyptic", perhaps "post-postapocalyptic"? Lethem playfully reinvents the tropes of Hollywood blockbusters (70s disaster movies, 80s action-comedy) and apocaliterature into something hilarious yet thoughtful, satirical yet warm-hearted. A Vonnegutian tragicomedy about what happens when technology fails us. You might call the genre that The Arrest fits into "semi-apocalyptic" or "anti-apocalyptic", perhaps "post-postapocalyptic"? Lethem playfully reinvents the tropes of Hollywood blockbusters (70s disaster movies, 80s action-comedy) and apocaliterature into something hilarious yet thoughtful, satirical yet warm-hearted. A Vonnegutian tragicomedy about what happens when technology fails us.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Seema Rao

    If you mixed a Jasper Fforde novel with When Androids Dream of Electric sheep, perhaps. It was enjoyable, though I’d like it even more if I wasn’t living in a dystopian future. It was a fast, enjoyable read and in a world where it didn’t seem like a possible future. I would have loved it. Thanks to NetGalley for the arc in exchange for an honest review.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    Strange story with characters that had unknown motivation and were hard to relate to. Action is limited. I quite possibly missed the whole point. Thanks to HarperCollins and NetGalley for the ARC to read and review.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Susan Tunis

    Well, I didn't hate it. You may accuse me of damning with faint praise, but the truth is, Lethem's written several novels I hated in the past decade. The logical question to now ask is, Why do I keep reading them? There are a few reasons: His early promise--not seen in a long, long time. The fact that he's a very talented prose stylist. The man knows how to write a sentence. And then there's cultural cache and FOMO. I really must stop! His latest, The Arrest, is Lethem's version of a near-future a Well, I didn't hate it. You may accuse me of damning with faint praise, but the truth is, Lethem's written several novels I hated in the past decade. The logical question to now ask is, Why do I keep reading them? There are a few reasons: His early promise--not seen in a long, long time. The fact that he's a very talented prose stylist. The man knows how to write a sentence. And then there's cultural cache and FOMO. I really must stop! His latest, The Arrest, is Lethem's version of a near-future apocalypse. Almost all technology has stopped, for reasons that are not explained and are barely even hinted at. Our main character goes--in this new, unexpected life--by the moniker, Journeyman. There is, of course, no explanation of how he got it. But that is, more or less what he does, delivering packages of food to communal outliers. And it is what he essentially is, having journeyed from his home in Hollywood to visit his farmer sister in Maine when the catastrophe struck. Then, there is the literal definition of a journeyman, "reliable, but not outstanding". That's our man. He left his life as a script doctor behind years ago, but as the novel opens, a ghost from his past comes riding up--literally--on a chariot of impossible technology. His motives are deeply unclear, but boy, does he have a story to tell. If what I've typed above seems somewhat incoherent, I don't know what to say. Coherence doesn't seem to be a priority here. Is it a dystopia, or is it a satire? I'm not sure. I don't think anyone is. So, I circle back to, I didn't hate it. Which for Lethem and me is a victory. At the end of the day, this is an artist with whom I simply don't share an aesthetic. I feel the same way about Quentin Tarentino. Doesn't mean what they're doing is bad. I really need to stop reading these novels.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    The setting and premise of this novel are quite... arresting.

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