Bug Jack Barron (Overlook SF & F Classics)
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on October 19, 2000
If you've got a problem, bug Jack Barron, the television personality with one-hundred million viewers. If you've got $50,000.00 in liquid assets, contact the Foundation of Immortality and Benedict Howards will have you frozen until technology can bring you round and cure your ailment - forever. So a Negro without his assets in a suitably liquid state bugs Jack Barron, about how he's been refused a place in the Foundation of Immortality's freezers; that he's being racially prejudiced. This claim is refuted, and in order to win Jack Barron's allegiance Benedict Howards offers Jack Barron the chance of immortality - for real - forever. And whilst Jack Barron is sorely tempted to play along, their comes a point beyond which even he won't cross...
Only the slang and political references in this book would be a problem to today's younger readers. Apart from that, the ideas are all still fresh and, for the most part, fully realised in today's television culture. This book is consistent with the quality of writing in Norman Spinrad's `No Direction Home', and which I would like to see more of.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HALL OF FAMEon June 18, 2008
In the late 1960s, the "new wave" of science fiction writers unleashed a flood of mind-expanded and civil rights-obsessed product that probably seemed brilliant and insightful at the time, but most of which now seems laughably dated and self-indulgent. But just like any cultural craze, a few specimens have long-term staying power, as long as future readers can get past the crusty slang and political references. This 1969 offering from Norman Spinrad, his fourth novel and the one that really made his name, sometimes threatens to collapse under creaky hipster dialogue and the social paranoia of its times. But underneath is a brilliantly constructed political thriller in a (then-) near future.

The promise of immortality leads to a massive power struggle between a corrupt plutocrat and the title character, a self-righteous media manipulator whose attack-dog style is a downright eerie premonition of the O'Reillys that the real world has since delivered. (But at least Barron eventually develops a bit of a conscience.) Spinrad concocted an equally impressive exploration of the bleak future possibilities of around-the-clock media saturation and image-obsessed politics, and also delivered winning messages on the true natures of power and inequality. In 1969, such messages were in Spinrad's near future and are now in our near past. While some aspects of this book are definitely showing their age, the underlying messages of techno-political corruption and social paranoia are timeless, not to mention expertly constructed in this relentlessly brutal story. [~doomsdayer520~]
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon July 24, 2001
Norman Spinrad is one of those authors who never "broke out" but not because of the quality of his work. I would rank him with Ellison and Dick for quality. In short, he should be one of the greats.
His imagination is so rich that you will spend as much, or more, time thinking about what you are reading as actually reading his work. This book is a tremendous example of his gift. Spinrad understands the direction our purient privacy denying society twenty years before we arrived in our current sorry state.
If anything, reading this book you often forget when he was writing because the society he describes is seemingly so famil
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on May 5, 2000
This is a great pre-cyberpunk novel. The main character, Jack Barron, is a TV journalist. His nemesis and arch-villain is one rich and ruthless industrial. He enjoys picking on that guy, and playing the part of the chivalrous, 1st amendment fanatic journalist. No problem...
Then, one day, he for a change decides to run with a different story: someone has apparently been ... hmm ... buying young children from poor, very poor families... Over the course of a few weeks, Jack Barron will discover how those events are connected, who is behind all that (you have one guess...) and what is the goal behind them (do you like the idea of dying? Just asking...)
Then, he will be face with the ultimate challenge... What exactly is the price of his silence?
A very good book, much better written than many other Spinrad books (he's a little bit too weird for my taste, at times...) A great read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on December 22, 1998
Spinrad kicks the media, politicians and corporations where it hurts, and leaves the reader laughing until it hurts. Apparently denounced as depraved on the floor of parliament, beneath the toungue in cheek it's a disturbing discourse on the corrupting nature of money and power, in a world where your bank balance decides whether you will be granted life eternal. Comment on the power of media is prescient, with the title character's eponymous TV talk show's grip on the masses the only thing in the way of the nefarious plans of a mad, necrophobic billionare who throws gobs of money at private research into cryogenics and immortality, and is willing to go to any lengths to get his sinister 'freezer bill' through congress, and avert 'a million years of worm eaten nothingness'. The title character is so laid back he's teetering, aided by Spinrad's ear for slick dialogue. His wonderful pre-emptive speech in the presence of political heavies about cutting to the chase through the standard smoke-filled room rhetoric and double talk schtick is side splitting. The 'near-future' setting is somewhat dated but this matters little against the searing satire and shamelessly wicked characters. The ending was a little abrubt and unsatisfying, but this is a minor quibble against an SF classic.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on February 4, 2006
What a fun book. Norman Spinrad certainly has a vibrant mind. I don't much like subversives in real life but the main character in this book is a hoot! Now I have to figure out what else Spinrad has written so I can see if there's something even better. Get it, read it, enjoy.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 30, 1997
Spinrad's first major novel was deeply controversial for its time (1969), and has some eerily prophetic shadows of our present culture. The hero, star of a TV show that's a cross between Nightline and Jerry Springer, uses his position in a high-stakes poker game of power, politics, and medical immortality. As can be expected, the references are outdated and Spinrad's vision of the near future from 1969 is hardly 20/20; the plot itself is somewhat linear and predictable. Nevertheless, Spinrad's extraordinarily vivid writing style, unique to this novel and almost Pynchon-esque in its imagery, make this novel one to reread over the years in order to resample the savor of the work. A must-read for television fans and critics alike
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on July 14, 2006
This is not a book to read as if it is still new. This is a book to understand as an alternate history that begins at a point in what is now our past.

It is, simply, amazing, and has held up incredibly well. In today's age of Enron and Halliburton, Bug Jack Barron should be in everyone's collection, and more importantly, in the backs of our minds....

WWJD, baby? What would Jack Do?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on July 26, 2009
A book written to impress adolescents of the 60s? I think not. This is one of the most prophetic novels I've read. Originally published New World's magazine, I've noticed a huge trend in the writers for that publication predicting Reagan's presidency. How did they know? One thing I've noticed about all futuristic novels, is they never factor in different storage media, be it tape or floppy. Now that cloning is a reality, the screenplay for this would have to be severely adapted to make the SF horror a reality. Mostly, I enjoyed the portrayal of the media, government, greed, bloodlust for immortality, image vs leadership, and the influence of money on each. Read this, and ask yourself if you would have done the same thing in Jack Barron's shoes.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
In a near future setting, a controversial media commentator is our
protagonist. When he takes on a particular topic he gets in over his
head, as he starts playing with the billonaires.

A dirty conspiracy is going on, and they bring Jack in. He realises
that longevity treatments are possible, but only by illegal
organlegging of children.

Jack must make the difficult choice of whether to throw in with them, or expose them.
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