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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

"Exposure" by Kurt Wenzel

Official Hachette Book Group USA Website
Order “ExposureHERE
Read An Excerpt HERE

In his first two books – “Lit Light” and its sequel “Gotham Tragic”, Kurt Wenzel explored the highs & lows of the publishing world, New York City and Islamic religion. Now, I haven’t read either of those books, but when I saw the description for Kurt Wenzel’s newest novel “Exposure” – “a blistering mash-up of science fiction and mysteryWilliam Gibson (Neuromancer, Spook Country) meets Chuck Palahniuk (Fight Club, Rant)” – I was definitely intrigued.

With “Exposure”, Mr. Wenzel takes on Los Angeles and in particular Hollywood, introducing readers to a frightening near future (2017) where digitalism has taken on a life of its own. We’re talking about a Hollywood where moving image billboards (MIBs) are plastered virtually everywhere – on buildings, cars, mirrors, in bathroom stalls, etc.; where ReStars – digitized versions of deceased movie actors like Humphrey Bogart, John Wayne, Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe, Cary Grant and so on have been resurrected to sell products in commercials; and where advertising on the moon, on your home, in your conversations and even on your body, are just around the corner. And let’s not forget the wild animals that are addicted to fast food, the manufactured drugs (Bliss) which offer a high unlike anything else, and the Home Security Checkpoints (HSCs) – random security stops where agents with nearly unlimited powers can violate a person’s life, all in the name of anti-terrorism. Quite a milieu if I do say so, but what’s most fascinating about Mr. Wenzel’s vision is that it’s not science fiction…these are all plausible concepts or scenarios that could easily transpire in our lifetimes, and, in some cases, are already nearly a reality.

As far as the story, “Exposure” follows a group of screenwriters, actors, agents, television personalities and other ‘Hollywood’ types who get caught up in a fast-moving plot that is part Hollywood satire, part whodunit, part science fiction extrapolation and a statement on America’s infatuation with image, advertisements polluting our lives, & the loss of privacy. Storylines include the friendship between screenwriter Marshall Reed and the number one actor in the world Colt Reston, not to mention plenty of background information regarding the two; the Black Book – a mysterious novel with no title or author that talks about the dangers of media saturation; Mr. Black, the unnamed writer behind the Black Book who offers journalist Lindsay Williams an exclusive interview; competing talent agencies; antimedia cabals, inexplicable diseases; murder and other shadowy conspiracies. Basically, there’s a lot to process in such a small book (262 pages), but everything and everyone is somehow connected to one another, so as “Exposure” builds towards its climax, which features some unexpected revelations, all of the individual pieces start coming together and are wrapped up nicely by the end, though some parts will require a suspension of disbelief, while a couple of others are left unanswered.

So, what did I think about my first Kurt Wenzel book? For starters, the author’s writing really impressed me with the deft dialogue, better-than-average characterization, well-orchestrated surprises (though a couple were predictable), excellent pacing and some nice symbolism, not to mention the issues that he brings up regarding image & advertising, which I thought were pretty interesting. The story itself grabbed me from the first page, was hard to put down and, apart from some slow moments, was over before I even knew it. Above all, Kurt Wenzel’sExposure” was just fun to read, reminding me somewhat of a cross between the movie S1m0ne starring Al Pacino, the F/X television show Nip/Tuck and the noirish elements from Blade Runner or Richard K. Morgan’sAltered Carbon”, and I would not hesitate in recommending this book to anyone who’s looking for a good time…

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