Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Book: James P. Othmer's "The Futurist"

This is a hard book to pin down. Did I like it? Did I not like it? Not really sure. James P. Othmer has written a book full of cynicism and commentary. That book is "The Futurist".

Othmer's main character is a futurist named Yates. The book starts with Yates preparing to give a speech to a conference. After emptying the mini-bar and having a long heart-to-heart with a charming South African prostitute, he gets up on stage and denounces his profession. He outs futurists as totally ignorant about what the future holds, that the futurist goal was to make money by telling people want they wanted to hear, and that he was founding the Coalition of the Clueless.

Leaving the conference, Yates is convinced that his career is over. He is introduced by an acquaintance to representatives of a secretive organization that Yates mistakes for a government organization. Thinking he had no options, he accepts their lucrative and seemingly benign offer to work for them. To Yates' surprise, his career doesn't crash and burn, demand for his honest point of view skyrockets, and the benign offer of the secretive organization is nothing of the sort.

The organization is a capitalist organization who wants to use Yates to sell their ideas to investors and to maximize their profits. After deciding at the conference not to sell out any longer, Yates had stumbled into the ultimate sell out. When he tries to get out, they frame him for terrorism and blackmail him.

The rest of the book tells of Yates' attempt to redeem himself, hide from his deal with the devil, and self exploration. He rescues the South African prostitute, he runs to a tropical island, but in the end he returns to confront his bad decision.

Making a deal with the organization, he sells what remains of his soul for one last task, a task that nearly kills him.

The last chapter, a mere three pages, is a series of one liners about what happens, or maybe does not happen, to Yates afterwards. While a hasty ending often leaves me wanting, there wasn't anywhere else to go with the story and a quick, concise ending had the right feel and worked for me.

So, did I like it? Yes. No. Maybe. Probably yes, I guess. I think what I liked about it was the artistic, expert use of cynicism throughout the book. I can be a cynic at times and Yates is the epitome of cynicism.

I guess I liked it. Somewhat recommended.

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