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The Futurist by James P. Othmer
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The Futurist

by James P. Othmer

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AUTOPSY REPORT:
In the case of: "The Futurist"
Date accessioned: 15 Sept 2010
Date completed: 23 Sept 2010

Clinical Summary: Specimen was discovered on bookstore shelf. A cursory twenty-page assessment was not suspicious for significant pathologic change. No witnesses were present. No suicide note has been identified.

Gross Examination:

On dissection, the following contents were discovered inside this book:

characters I hate (5)
excessive cliché (too much to quantify)
unimaginative plot devices (at least 3)
annoying character contrivances (1 major, several minor)
artless symbolism (1 major instance, multiple minor)

Diagnosis: Shit Sandwich.

Etiology: Uncertain; cannot rule out bored or incompetent author.

Motive: Uncertain; possibly terrorism/torture, or psychosis.

Lessons Learned: Twenty pages is not always sufficient to predict whether a book will be any good.

Legal Status: Unresolved; author still at large.

Predictions: critical acclaim, a sequel.

REVIEW OF FACTS:
The Futurist (Advance Reading copy) caught my eye in the bookstore, and somehow held my interest through the first twenty pages, so I bought it.

I should have known better. For one thing, I think the job title “futurist” is complete bullshit. The only two people I’m aware of who have had the gall to bestow this ridiculous title on themselves are Ray Kurzweil , who I consider a megalomaniacal sociopath, and Alvin Toffler , who I have a difficult time taking seriously. If I had to generalize, I’d say “futurists” are hucksters who prey on peoples’ insecurities- people who are looking for somebody else to tell them where the next big threat or opportunity will arise. There is big lecture circuit money to be made in this particular flavor of snake oil sales. As author James Othmer illustrates, the futurist is mostly in the business of either telling people what they want to hear, or selling them somebody else’s agenda. There is probably no such thing as an unbiased futurist. Actually, this book seems to agree with me on that point ...but I still hate it.

This book introduces you to Yates. His first name is never revealed, which I find annoying. He is an acclaimed and very comfortable futurist. After establishing himself in the business at least a decade ago, he is just now starting to become disillusioned, which suggests he is exceptionally dimwitted, despite Othmer’s attempt to build him up as brilliant. What Yates really is, is a spoiled, poor-little-rich boy, sipping fine wine in private jets, and “tortured” by the hypocrisy and vacuousness of his life. If you managed to forget why you hated every character on Beverly Hills: 90210, this book will set you right.

When Yates’ one-dimensional, pure-evil, bitch-from-hell girlfriend dumps him (she’s been cheating on him, of course), something in his brain snaps. He decides to scrap the speech he prepared for his next gig, and instead tells the audience what he really thinks!!! Sound familiar? It should. Tom Cruise did this as Jerry Maguire, and Dudley Moore’s character did it in Crazy People. Unlike in those movies, however, Yates’ moment of honesty initially costs him his job, but eventually, as people see the truth in his words, it brings him greater success!! Oh, wait..

So the plot is a predictable cliché. Well, that doesn’t have to kill the book for you. Maybe there are some good characters along the way, like Yates’ platonic friend Marjorie. She's a prostitute with a heart of gold! Surely that’s never been done before. How about Yates’ old college roommate, Campbell? (again with no first names) Here’s a fresh new character: the software billionaire friend whose privileged lifestyle gives our protagonist a more grounded perspective on life. (Blech) He would no doubt be played by Pierce Brosnan in the movie version (God forbid) of this book. How about Amanda Glowers, Yates’ one-dimensional, pure-evil, bitch-from-hell female professional rival? (this is a somewhat misogynistic book) The only character you might not see coming is Magga: Campbell’s 6’8” Greenlandic nympho girlfriend, who drives around in an armored personnel transport, and whose father is at the head of Greenland’s mafia. I guess she was invented to spice things up by adding an element of surreal improbability. FAIL. Instead she makes this whole contraption feel even more contrived and unconvincing. I wonder if Othmer’s first draft was too boring, and the editors made him conjure her up. She really contributes nothing to the story.

So what happens in this book? A lot of jet setting. Lots of enjoyment of luxury (Campbell’s mansion in Greenland). Lots of stomping about and feeling oh-so desperate!(more champagne, please), oh-so lonely! and oh-so empty! (pass the Cuban cigars) Yates’ distant father, a completely undeveloped character to that point, passes, creating the opportunity for a “heartbreaking” scene of grief. Yates is so vulnerable! -so human! (yawn) He is blackmailed into doing some more gigs as a futurist, promoting various projects he doesn't really believe in. (“I keep trying to leave, and they keep pulling me back in!!”) The space hotel Yates’ once praised as mankind’s first commercial gateway to the stars has a catastrophic accident and burns up on re-entry. It’s almost, you know, like a symbol for something.

Othmer wraps this mess up with a big finale, in which Yates (still under blackmail) goes to a Potemkin commerce convention in Iraq to declare the country open for foreign investment. There is an attempt on his life, which he narrowly escapes, and he then declares himself finished with futurism forever. Hooray! ( )
  BirdBrian | Apr 4, 2013 |
This book was chosen for a book club and it’s not something I would have picked out. At first glance, I didn’t think I’d like it. After reading it I know I was right. Hated it! The main character was not likable. He comes off as a cynical smartass that has no redeeming qualities that make you want to root for him. Some of the book was entertaining enough to keep me reading it. I liked the interesting and bizarre people he met up with. The plot lost it’s humor and became too much – wouldn’t really recommend it. ( )
  amachiski | Aug 31, 2011 |
For about 15 years, I pretty much exclusively read sci fi. And now I find that so many of the scenarios in those books have come true and we are living them now; the internet, the influence of corporations, the rise of religion & its influence on politics, the ignorance and fickleness of the polulace and how easy they are fooled, led one way, then another...I could go on. When I read the premise for this book (by the way a book club choice), my first thought was been there, done that! And really, with all the conspiracy theories that abound today, this story just seemed like another one in a long line of previously covered ideas. With the book being a fast read and pretty predictable and not particularly funny, all I can say is its been done before and so much better. ( )
  pdplish | Aug 25, 2011 |
Plot....hey, who needs it? Othmer bought his off the shelf, borrowing a little from every conspiracy you've ever heard, from Guy Fawkes to The Manchurian Candidate.

All Othmer needed was a tree he could decorate with his cruel, cynical observations and spiky one-liners. These elements of the book--let's not mince words here--are brilliant.

The Futurist is dense with word-play and preposterous invention. Descriptions are vivid, and the language tight. You will not find one single ounce of fat on this book.

It doesn't surprise me that Othmer was once a copywriter. In a trade where words cost money, every word has to earn its keep. The Futurist showcases Othmer's skill as a deft ingniter of ideas. Enjoy the ride with him. ( )
  HonourableHusband | Sep 25, 2010 |
Really liked this book... A world adventure... South Africa, Fiji, The Midwest USA... Conspiracy, abounds... I don't read a lot of fiction, but I love the premise of a Futurist who is honest about having know way to predict the future. ( )
  floggartxxi | Mar 7, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 038551722X, Hardcover)

WHO IS THE FUTURIST?

He once fired a man on Take Your Daughter to Work Day.

He once was asked by the New York Times to write an Op-Ed piece on the death of literacy in America and had his assistant ghostwrite it.

He once began his week ringing the bell at the New York Stock Exchange and ended it giving a speech about the future of greed to a group of seminary students.

He once wrote the introduction to a book he never read, Beehive Management: How Life in the Honeycomb Translates to Winning in the Workplace.

He once was an adviser for HeresWhatIDoMom.com, a company that made videos that explained people’s nebulous jobs to their confused parents.

He once took batting practice with the New York Mets, pretending not to notice the eight-year-old boy with leukemia from the Make-A-Wish Foundation whom the PR director let him cut in front of because he had a plane to catch.

He once gave a rousing motivational talk at the base of a spouting fountain before the West Coast sales force of an erectile dysfunction pharmaceutical maker.

Yates is a Futurist. Which is to say he makes a very good living flying around the world dispensing premonitory wisdom, aka prepackaged bullshit, to world governments, corporations, and global leadership conferences. He is an optimist by trade and a cynic by choice. He’s the kind of man who can give a lecture on successive days to a leading pesticide manufacturer and the Organic Farmers of America, and receive standing ovations at both.

But just as the American Empire is beginning to fray around the edges, so too is Yates’s carefully scripted existence. On the way to the Futureworld Conference in Johannesburg, he opens a handwritten note from his girlfriend, saying she’s left him for a sixth-grade history teacher. Then he witnesses a soccer riot in which a number of South Africans are killed, to the chagrin of the South African PR people at Futureworld. Sparked by a heroic devastation of his minibar and inspired by the rookie hooker sent to his hotel room courtesy of his hosts, Yates delivers a spectacularly career-ending speech at Futureworld, which leads to a sound beating, a meeting with some quasi-governmental creeps, and a hazy mission to go around the world answering the question: Why does everyone hate us?

Thus begins an absolutely original novel that is fueled by equal parts subversive satire, genuine physical fear, and heartfelt moral anguish. From the hideously ugly Greenlander nymphomaniacal artist to the gay male model spy to the British corporate magnate with a taste for South Pacific virgin sacrifice rituals, The Futurist manages to be wildly entertaining and deadly serious at the same time.

It’s the novel we all deserve.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:36:59 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

"Yates is a Futurist. Which is to say he makes a very good living flying around the world dispensing premonitory wisdom, aka prepackaged bullshit, to world governments, corporations, and global leadership conferences. He is an optimist by trade and a cynic by choice. He's the kind of man who can give a lecture on successive days to a leading pesticide manufacturer and the Organic Farmers of America, and receive standing ovations at both." "But just as the American Empire is beginning to fray around the edges, so too is Yates's carefully scripted existence. On the way to the Futureworld Conference in Johannesburg, he opens a handwritten note from his girlfriend, saying she's left him for a sixth-grade history teacher. Then he witnesses a soccer riot in which a number of South Africans are killed, to the chagrin of the South African PR people at Futureworld. Sparked by a heroic devastation of his minibar and inspired by the rookie hooker sent to his hotel room courtesy of his hosts, Yates delivers a spectacularly career-ending speech at Futureworld, which leads to a sound beating, a meeting with some quasi-governmental creeps, and a hazy mission to go around the world answering the question: Why does everyone hate us?"--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

» see all 2 descriptions

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