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Sensation (Spectacular Fiction) by Nick…
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Sensation (Spectacular Fiction) (edition 2011)

by Nick Mamatas

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594200,849 (3.71)None
Member:Longshanks
Title:Sensation (Spectacular Fiction)
Authors:Nick Mamatas
Info:PM Press (2011), Paperback, 208 pages
Collections:Your library, Favorites
Rating:*****
Tags:humor, satire, science fiction, speculative fiction, politics, postmodern, slipstream

Work details

Sensation by Nick Mamatas

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  1. 00
    Pym by Mat Johnson (Longshanks)
    Longshanks: Two intelligent satires which make their points with a balance of clever observation and silliness. And not the lol-so-random monkeycheese sort of silliness.
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Tiresome and smug. Wouldn't have finished it but I didn't have anything else to read while I was on jury duty. ( )
  JenneB | Apr 2, 2013 |
Sensation's average rating is 3.5+ stars. Statistically, at least, the evidence indicates that, if you consider reading Sensation, you're likely to enjoy it.

I won't speak to the plot other than to say that its conceit involves the revelation that all of human history is the result of a proxy war between other lifeforms. The plot isn't really what's important here; it's the setup that those readers who enjoy Sensation will appreciate: It's the skewed mechanism by which Mamatas delivers his critiques of contemporary American society.

At least one reviewer (elsewhere) referred to Mamatas' writing as “smug.” I'd by lying if I denied that. But Mamatas isn't selective in his choice of targets; he mocks everyone equally and one gets the sense, at least, that he's including himself (or his “type”) among those he lampoons. Of course, certain stereotypes receive special attention: The “hipster,” the academic, and, yes, he makes fun of performance artists. Easy targets, perhaps, but I enjoyed Mamatas' handling of them.

Sensation suffers from a number of weaknesses. The plot meanders and, short as the book is, feels as if it's been stretched too long in spots. Philosophical implications abound and, irony deficient as I am, I'm not sure if Mamatas was striving for depth or adding another layer of mockery atop his characters. On a technical level, I read the Nook version of Sensation, which was poorly formatted and suffered from numerous errors and typos.

I forgive Mamatas the points above because of the uniqueness of his concept (to me, anyway), the ways in which he captures what so many of us think and his occasionally surprising turns of phrase. “I eat murder,” says one character, “and I poop ideology,” a statement that can't fail to bring a smile to my face.

There is no huge payoff at the end of Sensation. It won't change your worldview or awaken in you the urge to engage in some sort of social justice work. It's not serious. It's not literature. It's entertainment, and that's okay. I recommend that readers able to accept a book on that merit give this (short) book a chance. ( )
  LancasterWays | Feb 17, 2013 |
A hilarious take on modern society and acts of rebellion against it, be they effectual or otherwise. Refreshingly straight-faced with its humor, despite its premise initially sounding like the product of a group the book satirizes quite thoroughly. ( )
  Longshanks | Jan 19, 2013 |
Hard to classify Sensation by Nick Mamatas without describing the work like some obscure underground internet radio station. It definitely falls within the parameters of contemporary urban science-fiction, a more American counterpart to the British labyrinthine imaginings of China Mieville, while faintly echoing the finer philosophical musings of The Matrix movies. On the other hand, it confluences in wild absurdity, paralleling a strange hybrid of The Hitchhiker's Guide with Woody Allen's New York state of mind.

The story doesn't have much of a center as it's more a series of falling dominoes, beginning with an atypical breakup between lackluster couple Raymond and Julia, and the subsequent societal fallout both monitored and controlled from forces unforeseen. Such forces reveal themselves as the interplay between two warring super-intelligent species of spider and wasp, molding our reality as omnipresent observers of "indeterminate ethnicities", policing society's actions in their own war of survival.

Mamatas frequently references the butterfly effect in this work, using timely and humorous popular social references to illustrate the torrential effect of the small actions people collectively take, whether they be defacing newly constructed mega-stadiums, driving buses into the United Nations, or enacting "Plan Z" through the perfected strategy of web-based, pseudo-bourgeois "mutually assured confusion". With all these accumulated acts, Mamatas eagerly invokes the free will argument, whether in this highly controlled universe or that of the interweaved, yet nebulous "Simulacrum" in which our players occasionally encounter themselves.

There's a lot going on in Sensation. With creepy subtlety and detachment, Mamatas brilliantly narrates from the view of his hyper-intelligent spider species; his interweave of our reality and that of the Simulacrum is too underdeveloped for my taste though, as he focuses on the plight of an overeducated, insipid Raymond and his ubiquitous Julia. More time could have been spent on the hive-mind of his wasp species, for it too, was left wanting in relation to his spidey sense. The absurdity emanating from and surrounding his characters in an ever insane New York is quite enjoyable though; Mamatas deftly strangles our sense of self-importance, adding a much needed humility to our unquestionably mindless endeavors. It's also an unquestionably worthwhile read. ( )
  gonzobrarian | Aug 30, 2011 |
Showing 4 of 4
Mamatas is an excellent writer who takes chances with his work, but takes them thoughtfully and delivers them for maximum effect, to deliver his ideas with precision and strength, so that his novel leaves a lasting impression not just of pleasure, but of a reflective questioning about what we think we are capable of, and what really constrains and directs us though our daily lives.
 
[A]live with scornful insight about pop culture, the net, and politics. Sensation is a kind of bastard love-child of GG Allin and Kurt Vonnegut, a science fiction story that is funny but always discomfiting.
 
In his 2004 debut novel, Move Under Ground, Nick Mamatas handled what could have been a gimmicky premise—a fight for the soul of America between H.P. Lovecraft’s evil chaos god Cthulhu and a ragtag crew of Beat writers led by Jack Kerouac—with intelligence, depth, and wit. Unfortunately, he’s on considerably shakier ground in his third novel, Sensation, which fumbles to an unfocused conclusion after a strong beginning.
 
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For Olivia, again.
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Raymond saw his ex-wife twice—both times by accident—in the first few months after she went into hiding.
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"Love. Politics. Parasitic manipulation. Julia Hernandez left her husband, shot a real-estate developer out to gentrify Brooklyn, and then vanished without a trace. Well, perhaps one or two traces were left... With different personal and consumption habits, Julia has slipped out of the world she knew and into the Simulacrum--a place between the cracks of our existence, from which human history is both guided and thwarted by the conflict between a species of anarchist wasp and a collective of hyperintelligent spiders. When Julia's ex-husband Raymond spots her in a grocery store he doesn't usually patronize, he's drawn into an underworld of radical political gestures and Internet organizing looking to overthrow a ruling class it knows nothing about--and Julia is the new media sensation of both this world and the Simulacrum."--Publisher's description.… (more)

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