In terms of its scope, tone and ambition, Lee Konstantinou's debut falls somewhere between Sam Lipsyte's wonderful and bizarre The Subject Steve and Philip K. Dick's much darker The Man in the High Castle. In all cases, the authors' implicit criticism of contemporary culture is built through some smart, proleptic storytelling.
Konstantinou's future is one in which the children of the privileged meanderingly attend Ivy League graduate schools and mindlessly consume media, drugs and high-end electronics. They're concerned with the stock price of their name (which has an index of its own), and with their day-to-day presence in the "Mediasphere" (a big, fat Myspace/Facebook/Twitter analogy if ever there was one). In that respect, Konstantinou has effectively updated and technologoized the vapidity, frivolity and wastefulness that defines and makes memorable so many Bret Easton Ellis characters.
But what's missing from his updated indictment of consumerism, militarism, exhibitionism and evangelism isn't a good dose of humor (the book is occasionally quite funny), nor is it that there aren't interesting situations or well-developed subplots or canny observations (they're aplenty). What rings vaguely hollow here is the protagonist himself. Eliot Vanderthorpe Jr. is a minor celebrity who, at the novel's start, is just coming off a serious Lohan-esque binge of partying. He wears his Converse All Stars and his aviator shades as any good playboy should. Predictably, when Eliot is forced by his father to shape up, things don't go as planned, and Eliot is forced to join the ranks of corporatists to forge his own path. From then on, Eliot's growth is more or less on autopilot.
Witnessing an emotionally stunted protagonist fight his way through a high-stakes adolescence (the world is on the brink of a major religious war, an event that the Vanderthorpes stand to profit from immensely) should have been more fun than it turns out to be here. If nothing else, Konstantinou has taken a much-appreciated risk in writing such a bold, weird and colorful debut. That its protagonist is utterly two-dimensional is almost made up for by the enjoyment of experiencing the weird, frightening and fascinating world that he inhabits.