Big If

Big If➾ [Download] ➻ Big If By Mark Costello ➷ – 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 jus 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 safeWry 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 administrationAs 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. I went from abandoning two novels on Stephen King's Reading List Part II 2666 by Roberto Bolaño and The Dirty Secrets Club by Meg Gardiner to giving a shot to one Big If by Mark Costello I finished this one Wit character and research go a long way with me even in the case of books like this where those elements become indulgent and prove to be an awkward substitute for a storyI struggled through the cryptic title science fiction? romance? self help? and cover design with both print and digital versions doing a miserable job of trying to prepare me for what I was going to read but Costello uickly grabbed me by the back of the neck with his pure energy of writing Most of Big If is set in present day New Hampshire and follows Vi Asplund a Secret Service agent in her mid twenties who has moved up to Protection where she joins a detail guarding the unnamed Vice President of the United States as his presidential campaign swings through the Granite State Vi's home stateVi's older brother Jens is a computer programmer putting his PHd and his genius to use writing code for BigIf a violent and cheesy multiplayer video game which their father an atheist insurance adjuster named Walter disowned as amoral shortly before he passed away suddenly Neither Jens or Vi cope with their father's absence well throwing themselves into work with creeping nihilismJens is married to a childhood sweetheart Peta now a real estate agent jumping through hoops held by the stunningly rich and staggeringly unhappy software wives combing New Hampshire for their dream home Jens finds himself increasingly distracted and unable to complete the code for the newest monster in BigIf a high school shooter They have a young son they'd like to spend time withVi a college athlete who joined the Secret Service essentially following in her father's footsteps by providing protection has no social life no home and no direction Her early career in the bureau's Criminal Division busting Russian counterfeiters surrounded her with the most irredeemable people on the planet but a transfer to Protection proves eually hopeless with upper level management or emotional burnout the two paths that lay aheadA sample of the writing that hooked me on page 11 of 315 Walter Asplund believed in many things the dignity of humankind the Genius of Democracy the sanctity of contract The Origin of Species the mission of the bloodmobile the charts devised in Hartford poplin suits in summertime brown bread with baked beans little oyster crackers with chowder not with oysters baseball tennis The New Yorker travel hats he purchased from the back of The New Yorker which he sometimes wore to baseball games the pleasures of night skiing with his children on the bunny hill in Rye He believed that is in almost everything but God He declined to serve the Rotary and announced the reason why and after that he was known in Center Effing as the Atheist and his kids were known in school as the Little AtheistsWow Costello is a writer of precision wit and social conscience He knows the worlds of the Secret Service of a tech startup real estate and presidential campaigning backwards and forwards As the above passage indicates he can tell you every item in the pockets or purses of every character he introduces and at first I was amazed by this Then as this level of intensity continued and continued my amazement turned to fatigue and fatigue turned to repulsion and soon I just wanted the novel to end Big If introduces other characters Vi's boss Gretchen a single mother whose son has started asking uestions about his father a hotshit LAPD detective One of Vi's peers is a senior agent named Tashmo from the Reagan days whose infidelities have finally caught up with him A fellow agent named Bobbie whose sexual misadventures could fill a phone book has premonitions that an assassination attempt will be targeting herThe novel loses one star for drifting away from Vi to instead catalog nearly everything the reader could possibly want to know about other characters in clinical detail Any one of these characters could've been the protagonist of their own novel but that would reuire a plot of some sort which Costello resists to his detriment The novel loses another star due to the absence of a story Costello is doing embedded reporting on Americans in the here and now on the edge of something violence disillusionment nervous breakdown but this isn't part of the background it's background foreground and the entire set I was impressed through about 100 pages and then got impatient with all the lists and anecdotesThis is a guarded recommendation with the caveat that you enjoy literary fiction and are not expecting a strong story I liked the ending but even there Costello might have done his job too well leaving me with a sense of exhaustion and nihilism I admired the writing but can just barely recommend the book Mark Costello's novel Big If is a superb and unforgiving comedy of American life involving a low level Secret Service agent who must get reacuainted with her estranged computer genius brother when she takes a respite from the paranoid turns and twists of her nerve rattling job This is a book of richly skewed characters doing their best to make sense of their lives or at least have their lives take on a fleeting semblance of normalityThe uests individual and collective aren't what anyone would expect this novel takes a hard left turn from the Anne TylerPaulo Coelho fictions that insert everyday mysticism into the complications of city life and the results are habits tics behaviors and alienation from self that comes close to home in the heart of the nest the bedroom the dining room the kitchen the places one lives the most and gains small satisfactions or walls themselves to unreachable Siberias of the psyche In many ways this is one of the best novels to investigate what is one might do in the absence of God or even a convenient social construction of The Public Good All points of reference in Big If are minimized and negotiated from relevance Costello's prose is alive with the things of our life and is superb at demonstrating the clash between happiness material items promise and the world that denies such rewards He is the master of setting forth a metaphor and letting it travel through a storyline just beneath the surface operating silently mostly invisibly always effectively Their father in the first portion of the book is a moderate Republican insurance investigator of scholarly reading habits who happens to be a principled atheist You cannot have both insurance the practice of placing a monetary remuneration on unavoidable disaster and assurance which has religion promising protection from evil and disaster The children in turn assume careers that seem to typify the dualism their father opposed son Jens becoming a programmer for the Big If on line game for which he writes monster behavior code that attempts to outsmart human players and have them meet a hypothetical destruction Daughter Vi conversely becomes a Secret Service agent schooled in the theory encoded in The Certainties a set of writings that lays out the details nuances and psychology of extreme protection These are world views in collision and Costello's' prose is uick with the telling detailthe flashing insight the cutting remark The problem of course is that no one can define what good is Big If is uite good and what makes it work is that Costello accomplishes the dual difficulty of handing us a small townsuburban comedy the likes of John Cheever would have admired and the other is with the rich detailing of the other secret service agents who work with Vi Asplund There is something of a domestic comedy seamlessly interwoven with a skewed Washington thriller with the elements of each spilling over and coloring the underlying foundations of both In the first part of the novel we have an atheist Republican insurance investigator who has a habit of crossing out the God in the In God We Trust inscription on all his paper money replacing the offending word with us Vi years later winds up in a job where in us we trust is the operating rational as she and her fellow agents strive to protect their protected from the happenstance of crowds acting out on intricate theories and assumptions that can only be tested in the field Costello is wonderful at the heightened awareness in the ways he presents his details his comic touches A beautiful agent who still receives alimony checks from her smitten ex husband carries on a correspondence with him via the memo line of the checks where he continually writes come back to me She writes No never each time deposits the check knowing that her ex will see the reply when he receives the canceled checks The book is full of these fine touches We have a sense that it's the small things the small frustrations as much as the larger disasters that conspire against our happiness On view in Big If are different models on which characters try to contain control or explain the relentless capriciousness of Life as it unfolds constructs through which characters and the country and culture they serve can feel empowered to control their fate in a meaningful universe The punchline is that Life goes on anyway with it's fluctuating undulating chaotic dynamics that only occasionally seem to fall into place Costello wrests a subtle comedy of manners from the small failures of anyone's world view to suitably make their existence unproblematic This is a family comedy on a par with The Wapshot Chronicle but in an America that is suddenly global an air that makes even the most familiar things seem alien and fantastic Fiction Though this book will tell you it's about the United States Secret Service it's really just about some people who happen to work for the USSS and a couple people who happen to know those people It's about people One of those people books where nothing much happens You meet all these people you get their flashbacks you learn about their problems and then the book is about that Will Gretchen ever connect with her son in any meaningful way? Will Peta ever get Lauren Czoll to make an offer on a house? Will Jens get fired from his computer programming job because he refuses to write the code for Monster Todd? Will Jens' sister Vi whatever it is that Jens' sister Vi whatevers?It's a slow book with a meandering path and a lot of characters I liked the writing; it's basic but clever and Costello would freuently surprise me with a wonderful bit of detail But I spent the majority of it wondering what the hell year it was The book was published in 2002 and maybe back then it was clear that the VP running for president was Al Gore but ten years down the line that's not clear at all What's clear is that there's a weird gap between the Reagan administration and the present time in the narrative like time stood still for Bush senior and Clinton and only started up again during the 1999 primaries I had to piece together evidence a concert shirt from 1998 a mention of the school shooting in Springfield until then I didn't even know what decade it was was convinced this was taking place immediately following Reagan's term Timelessness is not an option when you're dealing with historyThree stars Follows a lot of different characters who are nevertheless connected in some way Slice of Life with some Secret Service Excitement but mostly what I liked about this was the writing “If you're 50 years old or younger give every book about 50 pages before you decide to commit yourself to reading it or give it up If you're over 50 which is when time gets shorter subtract your age from 100 the result is the number of pages you should read before deciding whether or not to uit If you're 100 or over you get to judge the book by its cover despite the dangers in doing so” ― Nancy PearlI wish I'd read this when I started this book I would've stopped reading much sooner Sleazy hopeless characters make me depressed and I don't need another cause for depression Mark Costello’s novel Big If is populated with some of the most interesting most contemporary characters Walter is a moderate Republican atheist working in insurance He has the habit of crossing out GOD in his dollar bills so that the statement reads IN US WE TRUST He has two children Jens who has grown up as a software programmer writing code for and pondering the morality or immorality or amorality of the monster game he has developed; Violet has grown up to work in the Secret Service Vi is assigned to the VP who is running for president and will have to go to the Democratic primary in New Hampshire to jog surrounded by security eat at a McDonald’s surrounded by media and shake hands with the common people to get their vote Jens’s wife Peta is a realtor assigned to manage a supposedly boring building now being attacked by a group of violent right to lifers Gretchen Vi’s superior has separated from his douchebag boyfriend but his son has found the boyfriend’s address by Googling himself and now wants to spend time with his father Before Lydia married Secret Service agent Lloyd Felker her talent agent said You’re not supposed to marry your own agent And I’m your agent He’s not that kind of agent Lydia said and her talent agent said Oh my god is he a literary agent? How will you be able to feed yourself?Big If published in 2002 was a finalist for the National Book Award I wonder what novel it came up against Costello’s novel was funny and touching and relevant enough to have won Big If might contain the most astute cultural observations ever committed to the pages of an assassination novel OK that's a joke because when you hear assassination novel you're probably expecting a by the numbers plot driven tale of brilliant but flawed gunmen hard boiled government agents smuggled rifles and escape routes By choosing to mostly ignore plot and focus instead on his characters Costello gets away with both exploding assumptions and taking us all on a messy beautiful journey through the lives of every key player involved in a plot against a presidential candidate The mundane and tragic drama behind secret service agents Internet moguls real estate agents housewives children spouses and lovers all unfold during the thick of primary season in New Hampshire where the landscape is torn up by GOTV vans and phone surveys every four years Costello uses the anxiety around presidential primaries as a fitting metaphor for American obsessions with power violence status and work and he leavens his ominous thoughtful story with plenty of off key humor I'd consider this book a must read during primary season or any season for that matter I have failed to finish only two or three novels in my long reading life This is one of them Whatever the author set out to do in this book escapes me There are or less three settings in the novel a sophisticated programmer a female Secret Service agent who is the programmer’s sister and a male Secret Service agent Nothing happens to them and they do nothing throughout the over half the book I managed to choke down before giving up The sections concerning the programmer were particularly difficult as they concerned coding and app manufacture that were totally boring and dense And again nothing happened Another critic on Goodreads said “One of those people books where nothing much happens”Well said critic Reads well Unusual book the first is undeniably action packed Started out somewhat interesting but then became very hard to read Was just kind of bizarre

Paperback  ñ Big If MOBI ¼
  • Paperback
  • 368 pages
  • Big If
  • Mark Costello
  • English
  • 06 August 2016
  • 9780156027793