Max Barry's would-be futuristic satire reads like a failed screenplay, replete with generic action sequences populated with dumb, spiteful characters. Its setting is thinly conceived and curiously dated, as if the hyper-capitalist day-after-tomorrow it presents exists only to excuse the author's unconvincing social speculations. He certainly doesn't seem inspired by the time-shift in any operational way. The novel's views on technology and media are so retrograde that, apart from its improbable corporate contortions, it may as well have been set in the early Nineties. The belabored, fake surface-cool is further undermined by idiosyncratically dull, repetitive prose and a persistent, almost dysthymic over-reliance on deus ex machina that would be laughable if it weren't so irritating. This is a bad book. Readers who think otherwise should probably steer clear of Aldous Huxley, George Orwell, William Gibson or Neal Stephenson, whose effortlessly superior explorations they would likely find upsetting or alienating.