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Outrageous Fortune by Tim Scott

01/05/2012. Contributed by Andy Whitaker

Buy Outrageous Fortune in the USA - or Buy Outrageous Fortune in the UK

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pub: Bantam Dell. 371 page enlarged paperback. Price: $12.00 (US), $15.00 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-553-38440-6. 403 page paperback. Price: $ 6.99 (UK), $ 8.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-553-58985-6) .

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‘Outrageous Fortune’ is Tim Scott’s first novel so I had no preconceptions of what to expect. The story starts with the main character Jonny X67 examining a small business card printed with the text, ‘Don’t you hate it when this happens?’ and the telephone number 1-800-AARRGHH. Jonny is a Dream Architect. He works for a company building dreams to order for rich clients. The business card is all what remains of where his house once stood. Unfortunately for Jonny, this is just the start of a wild and at times bizarre series of events he has no understanding of.

The story is set in a future not too far away but that is significantly different to what may expect. For starters, cities have developed zones based on music styles. For example, there is a Christmas single zone, a Jazz zone, a Rave zone. Each zone has unique characteristics but a common menace, Zone Traffic Securities. This is the car parking attendant’s organisation that has evolved to become the de facto police force.

One highlight of this new future world is the vastly over-engineered building lifts. While they do the same job as current building lifts, they have advance AIs and have developed personalities. This is not always helpful. It seems a lot of objects have personalities including a rather unhelpful doorbell. Another difference is that most transportation is by motorbikes rather than cars or buses.

As the plot unfolds, Jonny meets a limpet encyclopaedia saleswoman before being abducted by a motorcycle gang who are trying to be the four horsemen of the apocalypse. They want Jonny to help them assassinate God. Just when it seems that things can’t get any worse for Jonny, he is ‘rescued’ by Zone Traffic Securities who wish to discuss several traffic regulation infringements with him. The story continues in the same vein with more outrageous incidents occurring. The four riders make several more appearances, as does the limpet encyclopaedia saleswoman, before the sale is taken off her and handed to a Belgian assassin.

From the opening where his house is stolen, through all the strange occurrences and incidents, Jonny has no idea why this is all happening to him. That’s the biggest problem I had with this book. I had no idea why these events were happening neither. As Jonny was a dream architect, I was wondering if this would turn out to be a novel with several layers of reality where the character woke up from one dream only to find they are in another. Some of the incidents and characters just did not add up even in a twisted future.

As usual, the ending brought it all together to provide the explanation. While not a disappointing ending, it did feel rushed with something’s not fully explained. If there was a requirement to keep the novel to 400 pages they could have cut something in the middle and added a few more pages to the last chapter before the epilogue.

There are some very funny things in here that made me laugh and some thought-provoking ideas that made it a very worthwhile read. I’m not sure I will ever again be comfortable in a lift that makes announcements. I shall be looking out for more work from Tim Scott.

Andy Whitaker

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This book has 79 votes in the sci-fi charts

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