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Big If

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Big If Cover

 

Staff Pick

Vi Asplund, a Secret Service agent, returns to her childhood home to protect the vice president as he campaigns in the New Hampshire primary. Jens, her brother, still lives in Portsmouth, writing code for a wildly successful computer game. If Mark Costello's second novel makes such exotic vocations seem oddly familiar, it's because his characters deal with conflicts common to us all — conflicts about options, risk, and probabilities. A 2002 National Book Award finalist, Big If is often funny, satirizing the heady days of technology IPOs or America's electoral process, and it's especially timely, too, in these days of heightened security and suspicion.
Recommended by Jill Owens, Powells.com

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

A scary, funny novel — a riff on recent history and the American obsession with assassination.

It's winter in New Hampshire, the economy is booming, the vice president is running for president, and his Secret Service people are very, very tense.

Meet Vi Asplund, a young Secret Service agent mourning her dead father. She goes home to New Hampshire to see her brother Jens, a computer genius who just might be going mad — and is poised to make a fortune on Big If, a viciously nihilistic computer game aimed at teenagers. Vi's America, as she sees it in the crowds, in her brother, and in her fellow agents, is affluent, anxious, and abuzz with vague fantasies of violence. Through a gallery of vivid characters — heroic, ignoble, or desperate — Mark Costello's hilarious novel limns the strategies, both sound and absurd, that we conjure to survive in daily life.

Review:

"Costello's second novel...may well be the literary discovery of the season....Costello moves easily between riffs, with a truly magical feeling for insider's knowledge....Costello might be this season's Jonathan Franzen, a dazzling literary novelist with popular appeal." Publishers Weekly

Review:

"A thrilling corrective to fiction's phobia when it comes to the subject of gainful employment, so lamenters take note (unless you'd prefer to go on complaining, in which case, by all means, horseman, ride on!) ... Big If takes in the lives of an assortment of characters, most of whom are part of a team of Secret Service agents assigned to protect an unnamed vice president campaigning in a presidential primary in the late '90s (any similarities to Al Gore seem to be purely incidental)." Laura Miller, Salon.com (read the entire Salon.com review)

Review:

"Costello riffs on such tried-and-true themes as software games and presidential politics and seems to be suggesting that the country gets just what its families deserve." Library Journal

Review:

"A surprisingly rich action story by second-novelist Costello....Nicely shaded characters and believable situations. A thoughtful variation on the usual chicks-with-guns theme." Kirkus Reviews

Review:

"Each page of this governmental novel comes alive with intelligence, comedy, and inside dope." Jonathan Franzen, author of The Corrections

Synopsis:

A scary, funny novel--a riff on recent history and the American obsession with assassination.

Synopsis:

It's winter in New Hampshire, the economy is booming, the vice president is running for president, and his Secret Service people are very, very tense. Meet Vi Asplund, a young Secret Service agent mourning her dead father. She goes home to New Hampshire to see her brother Jens, a computer genius who just might be going mad--and is poised to make a fortune on Big If, a viciously nihilistic computer game aimed at teenagers. Vi's America, as she sees it in the crowds, in her brother, and in her fellow agents, is affluent, anxious, and abuzz with vague fantasies of violence. Through a gallery of vivid characters--heroic, ignoble, or desperate--Mark Costello's hilarious novel limns the strategies, both sound and absurd, that we conjure to survive in daily life.

Synopsis:

The Secret Service agents guarding the vice president steel their nerves to a multitude of dangers every day. When he runs for the top spot on the Democratic ticket, however, their personal lives may just be the biggest obstacle to keeping him safe.

Wry, muscular Vi Asplund is the daughter of an atheist insurance adjuster who took the young Vi and her brother, Jens, to the grisly accident scenes he covered. This tolerance for the macabre follows Vi into her career as an agent, and into Jens's development as the software designer for a gorey video game. Chief-of-detail Gretchen Williams fights to keep the team in order, while Agent Tashmo, a veteran presidential guard, reflects on the glory days of the Reagan administration.

As the primary approaches, these intense men and women balance their own lives with that of the vice president. An astounding novel of survival and absurdity, Big If casts a sharp eye on America today.

About the Author

Mark Costello, whose first novel, Bag Men, was written under the name John Flood, lives in New York.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780393051162
Author:
Costello, Mark
Publisher:
W. W. Norton & Company
Location:
New York
Subject:
General
Subject:
Political
Subject:
New hampshire
Subject:
Political fiction
Subject:
Assassination
Subject:
Humorous fiction
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Edition Number:
1st ed.
Series Volume:
107-56
Publication Date:
20020631
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
320
Dimensions:
9.5 x 6.7 x 1.2 in 1.335 lb

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

Big If New Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$23.95 Backorder
Product details 320 pages W. W. Norton & Company - English 9780393051162 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

Vi Asplund, a Secret Service agent, returns to her childhood home to protect the vice president as he campaigns in the New Hampshire primary. Jens, her brother, still lives in Portsmouth, writing code for a wildly successful computer game. If Mark Costello's second novel makes such exotic vocations seem oddly familiar, it's because his characters deal with conflicts common to us all — conflicts about options, risk, and probabilities. A 2002 National Book Award finalist, Big If is often funny, satirizing the heady days of technology IPOs or America's electoral process, and it's especially timely, too, in these days of heightened security and suspicion.

"Review" by , "Costello's second novel...may well be the literary discovery of the season....Costello moves easily between riffs, with a truly magical feeling for insider's knowledge....Costello might be this season's Jonathan Franzen, a dazzling literary novelist with popular appeal."
"Review" by , "A thrilling corrective to fiction's phobia when it comes to the subject of gainful employment, so lamenters take note (unless you'd prefer to go on complaining, in which case, by all means, horseman, ride on!) ... Big If takes in the lives of an assortment of characters, most of whom are part of a team of Secret Service agents assigned to protect an unnamed vice president campaigning in a presidential primary in the late '90s (any similarities to Al Gore seem to be purely incidental)." (read the entire Salon.com review)
"Review" by , "Costello riffs on such tried-and-true themes as software games and presidential politics and seems to be suggesting that the country gets just what its families deserve."
"Review" by , "A surprisingly rich action story by second-novelist Costello....Nicely shaded characters and believable situations. A thoughtful variation on the usual chicks-with-guns theme."
"Review" by , "Each page of this governmental novel comes alive with intelligence, comedy, and inside dope."
"Synopsis" by , A scary, funny novel--a riff on recent history and the American obsession with assassination.
"Synopsis" by , It's winter in New Hampshire, the economy is booming, the vice president is running for president, and his Secret Service people are very, very tense. Meet Vi Asplund, a young Secret Service agent mourning her dead father. She goes home to New Hampshire to see her brother Jens, a computer genius who just might be going mad--and is poised to make a fortune on Big If, a viciously nihilistic computer game aimed at teenagers. Vi's America, as she sees it in the crowds, in her brother, and in her fellow agents, is affluent, anxious, and abuzz with vague fantasies of violence. Through a gallery of vivid characters--heroic, ignoble, or desperate--Mark Costello's hilarious novel limns the strategies, both sound and absurd, that we conjure to survive in daily life.
"Synopsis" by ,
The Secret Service agents guarding the vice president steel their nerves to a multitude of dangers every day. When he runs for the top spot on the Democratic ticket, however, their personal lives may just be the biggest obstacle to keeping him safe.

Wry, muscular Vi Asplund is the daughter of an atheist insurance adjuster who took the young Vi and her brother, Jens, to the grisly accident scenes he covered. This tolerance for the macabre follows Vi into her career as an agent, and into Jens's development as the software designer for a gorey video game. Chief-of-detail Gretchen Williams fights to keep the team in order, while Agent Tashmo, a veteran presidential guard, reflects on the glory days of the Reagan administration.

As the primary approaches, these intense men and women balance their own lives with that of the vice president. An astounding novel of survival and absurdity, Big If casts a sharp eye on America today.

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