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Big Egos by S. G. Browne

Big Egos

by S. G. Browne

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I really liked this novel - it was a neat concept...and made me think if something like that ever did happen during my life time...it had good action and lead up but I was just so disappointed with the ending. I expected a more epic ending something to just be like...whaaaaaat! Otherwise it's a good easy read and will help you brush up on your pop culture skills! ( )
  rayneofdarkness | Sep 25, 2013 |
Big Egos is a bit of a departure from S.G. Browne's other novels. In this novel, he dips into the not too distant future set in a superficial society where people are no longer interested in living their own lives and feel compelled to be other people. The characters in the novel have shallow lives and yearn to get lost in the lives of fictional characters and dead celebrities. To feed this fixation is EGOS, a biotech company that has created a formula using engineered DNA that allows people to transform into somebody else for a brief period of time.

Our main character works as a customer service manager at the company. He uses so many egos that he begins to lose his own identity. Eventually, he can't tell reality from fiction and gets so confused that he hardly knows who he is, where he's at, and what's going on in his life. When his best friend Nat is nearly killed after stealing black market egos, he vows to put an end to all of this fictitious living.

S.G. Browne is a master of satire. In his previous novels, his social commentary is more masked within the story. This time, his social commentary is more in your face, and can come across heavy handed. The narrator is a likeable character. I very much enjoy Browne's prose. He has a nice, easy going style that makes reading a breeze. What I didn't like so much in terms of the writing in this novel is that he jumps from past to present to dream like states and it's very disorienting. This may have been Browne's intention, but ultimately it mostly served to confuse me. The novel starts off in Browne's usual light-hearted style, but about half way through really turns dark, perhaps a little too dark. Despite some of the flaws, it was a strong novel with a good pace and interesting characters, well worth reading.

Carl Alves - author of Blood Street ( )
  Carl_Alves | Sep 12, 2013 |
REVIEW ALSO ON: http://bibliomantics.com/2013/08/30/i-want-to-go-to-there-cassie-la-injects-big-...

I first read the short story form of Big Egos in author S.G. Browne’s eBook anthology Shooting Monkeys in a Barrel and immediately fell in love. The premise was straightforward enough, it’s the future and you can become a famous fictional character (be they real or cartoon), historical figure or dead celebrity for the night by injecting a product full of specifically configured DNA into your body. That part didn’t change from short story to novel but it certainly did get fleshed out, with our narrator working for EGOS (Engineering Genetics Organization and Systems) and trying to deal with his disjointed memories.

There are 3,000 Big Egos currently in production and the well to-do can purchase a brand new personality that’s effective for six to eight hours for only $3,000, and at 10 uses per bottle it’s not so bad to get to be Han Solo or Katniss Everdeen for a while. Plus I imagine it would be make Comic-Con that much more awesome seeing as Egos are touted as “the ultimate role-playing game.”

By imbibing the Egos (or injecting it into your brain stem like our narrator) slight physiological differences occur but it’s mostly your personality which changes. Which is why it’s recommended for the full effect that you pick an Ego who is somewhat close to your physical appearance. At least if you want to win first prize at the Big Egos parties which are sweeping the nation. But not most karaoke bars, they frown against such things.

Our narrator works in the Investigations Department at EGOS and as an added bonus that extends past job security and making money is that he’s able to take home and test out as many Big Egos as he wants. He is also tasked with investigating complaints. For example, if you find the Fox Mulder to be borish, addicted to porn and paranoid, he’s who would look into the problem.

In addition to the various church groups who oppose the company and the FDA who want to classify Egos as a drug, there’s also the problem of Black Market Egos which use RNA rather than DNA and can do adverse damage to your brain. However, it’s a cheap way to get more affordable Egos and how you can buy non-licensed Egos, living celebrities or even the more infamous Egos such as serial-killers. After all, no one wants Jack the Ripper running the streets again. Or more than one Miley Cyrus for that matter.

As the novel progresses, several themes starts to weave within the narrative, explored by a society who is doing everything they can not to be living their own perceived pathetic existence. In public we pretend to be others on a regular basis, wearing our own masks, taking up different roles depending on the situation. As Shakespeare, or crazy Egoed out Shakespeare would say, all the world is stage and we play many roles while on it. Egos are just a more popular and acceptable way to hide oneself. After all, you can’t truly know a person unless you are that person, or see how they behave when they are alone and let their guard down. (Which is the entire purpose of Chuck Klosterman’s novel The Visible Man. Read it for a novel entirely based on that idea.)

This runs hand in hand with the idea that you are how people perceive you. As Browne explains, “perception is reality” you are what you own, society views you how your are viewed by others, the good thing is if you can project a completely different mask of yourself that view can change. Regardless of how you perceive yourself. Somehow I don’t think Tyler Durden would agree with that statement because you are not the car you drive (except you totally are) from society’s perspective.

So yes, it’s no coincidence that our narrator stays both nameless and featureless throughout the novel while those around him remain fully fleshed out individuals. It’s not how they perceive themselves or how they truly are, it’s how he and society sees them.

In essence, the book is a fun look at some highly imaginative world-building, but it also serves a purpose too. Yay painful introspection! Yay existential thoughts! Yay life! Yay dissatisfaction!

Inter-spliced with these contemplations of the self and the roles we play are fun stories in which our narrator visits Big Ego parties as various characters and the interactions he witnesses there. It’s like one giant crossover of life and fandom. Which of course make these bits my favorite ones in the tome.

For example, he goes to a detective themed Ego party where everyone’s a sleuth. Nancy Drew rubs elbows with Colombo, Marlowe, Sam Spade, Sherlock Holmes and the Scooby Gang. The original Scooby Gang. He goes to a science-fiction party and narrates as Captain Kirk, all while Doc Brown talks time travel with the Doctor and Sarah Connor arm wrestles with Ripley over Mad Max.

The narrator even enters the literary sphere. Particularly when as Holden Caufield he goes to a literary character get-together. I loved this section, and it had nothing to do with me being a phony who loves Catcher in the Rye because, and I know this makes me a terrible person, but I’ve never read it. While there he spots Hester Prynne flirting with Patrick Bateman (yikes), Willy Wonka handing out candy to Alice and Lolita as Humbert Humbert creepily watches from afar (double yikes) and Rhett Butler and Jay Gatsby (Gatsby? What Gatsby?) laughing at drunkards.

This is only second to a section in which deceased authors do drugs and have sex with each other at a wild party in LA. Seems Bram Stoker hits things off with Mary Shelley while J.R.R. Tolkien is the Dungeon Master in a game with Ray Bradbury and H.G. Wells and Lewis Carroll and C.S. Lewis dare each other to climb into a wardrobe while William Goulding runs around holding a conch and yelling. Sounds about right.

Thankfully, one not need to get invited to an Egos party to see such nonsense. If you’re lucky you could glimpse Hemingway and Faulkner having a row in a Starbucks about the ocean and the need for complex sentences before getting in a fist fight about the Pullitzer.

Now can you see why one would want to live in such a hilarious and fantastical place? But since we don’t have such a wondrous, albeit terrifying scientific invention like Egos laying around you’ll just have to read the book instead. Which all and all isn’t a bad trade off. ( )
  yrchmonger | Aug 30, 2013 |
I'm of mixed opinions on this one. On the one hand, it has a lot of stuff I should love - satire, speculative fiction, pop culture and literary references, humor. Even the cover looks fantastic, and it pretty perfectly fits what you would expect from the cover of a speculative fiction satire. And yes, the novel is funny in places, and yes, it is an effective satire of modern life and our struggles with identity, with finding out who the "real me" is. Much of the book is a fast read that is simultaneously entertaining and insightful. I think it would make a great movie, one of those psychological mind-blowing thriller-type films that have been popular recently.

But then, for some reason, I was kind of let down overall. I either didn't understand the pop culture references or else found them far too shallow to be truly amusing. I was a bit confused with where the story was going and what, exactly, was happening. The ending was disappointing - I was left wondering "WTF?," unsure as to what the author intended with the final couple of pages. I felt like there were a lot of loose ends left behind, mostly about the ultimate fates of the characters. The conclusion and a good deal of what led up to it just felt unsatisfactory compared to the early promise of the rest of the book. ( )
  SusieBookworm | Aug 28, 2013 |
I thought I was going to like this story (because it touches on a whole lot of things I'm interested in, like psychology and RPGs), but I had no idea how much I was going to like it. I was blown away. For the sake of full disclosure I should mention that S.G. is a friend of mine, but I should also mention that I'm friends with a lot of people who've written books I've given less than stellar reviews to ;)

Big Egos is set in the near future when you can buy Egos -- drug/DNA cocktails which allow you to become someone else for a while. It's like roleplaying games but taken to the extreme. In this book everything is going well until our main character (who works for the company which creates Egos) begins to notice a few side effects of using. Dun dun dun!

S.G.'s portrayal of so many celebrities and his ability to shift the voice of his story to match whichever ego his main character is channeling at any given time was amazing. I loved it. I also thought that his grasp on the way Egos would be used and how society would react was fantastic.

It's always a little weird to read a book by a friend but as I read this one my inner editor was banished to the closet and reality slipped away while I turned the pages. I read this quickly, in part because the story unraveled so smoothly and in part because I didn't want to put the book down. I think this is S.G.'s best book yet.

Oh, and Hollywood? I'd really love to see this one made into a movie. Kthxbai. ( )
  RhondaParrish | Aug 5, 2013 |
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A young man is having an identity crisis while working as the head of the Investigations Department for the Los Angeles bioengineering firm Engineering Genetics Organizations and Systems. A quarter of the way into the twenty-first century, EGOS has developed and produced a groundbreaking technology in the form of a consumer product called, oddly enough, Egos. This product allows customers to become a fictional character or a dead celebrity for six to eight hours by injecting a DNA-laced cocktail into their brain stem, revolutionizing the concept of role-playing games. When a colleague stumbles upon an anomaly in a group of Egos that the unnamed protagonist has been injecting regularly for the past three years, the brass at EGOS waves it off as nothing to be worried about--except he is exhibiting behaviors that are in line with the reported anomaly. The truth is, he's started to lose the ability to separate fact from fiction. The more he continues to play the role of someone else, the less of him remains, as the lines of reality and fantasy continue to blur.… (more)

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S. G. Browne chatted with LibraryThing members from Sep 21, 2009 to Oct 2, 2009. Read the chat.

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