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A Highly Unlikely Scenario, or a Neetsa Pizza Employee's Guide to Saving the World: A Novel Paperback – January 14, 2014


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Melville House; Reprint edition (January 14, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1612192645
  • ISBN-13: 978-1612192642
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 5.5 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #223,161 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Global fast-food franchises rule the world, spawning contentious sects. Leonard, for instance, the hapless hero in first-time novelist Cantor’s rambunctiously smart, pun-spiked, and sweet dystopian romantic comedy, works for Neetsa Pizza fielding customer complaints and is, therefore, a Pythagorean. His sister, Carol, serves Scottish tapas at Jack-’o-Bites, which means she should be a Jacobite. Instead, she’s a neo-Maoist, always slipping off to “book club,” code for various revolutionary actions, leaving her gifted son, Felix, with doting Leonard. But once Leonard finds himself on the phone with Marco Polo, time, space, and the status quo begin to seriously warp. Soon Leonard, Felix, and Sally, a fetching “Book Guide” at the university library, are sent on an urgent, cosmic quest back to Marco’s era, a mission involving two other thirteenth-century renegades, the English philosopher Roger Bacon and the prophetic Kabbalist Abraham Abulafia. Glimmering with “signs and wonders” and laced with satirical jabs at technological intrusiveness and deception, Cantor’s funny and charming metaphysical adventure and love story is a wily inquiry into questions of perception, knowledge, mystery, legacy, and love. --Donna Seaman

Review

“A dystopian satire, a story about ­storytelling, believing and listening—A Highly Unlikely Scenario is ultimately a history of our own strange world.”
—The New York Times Book Review


“Cantor’s first novel never takes an obvious turn when a stranger one might do and the result is a plot that bounces, soap-bubble like, above a world that is equal parts absurdity and whimsy…the whole thing has the air of a fable translated from a very foreign language.” io9

"Rachel Cantor joins the ranks of authors who are able to turn philosophical concepts into whiz-bang plots, and make them funny as well. Throw in some family dysfunction, time travel, a librarian ingénue, and the possible destruction of the world, and you’ve got an adventure story replete with nerdy delights.”Tor

It’s as if Kurt Vonnegut and Italo Calvino collaborated to write a comic book sci-fi adventure and persuaded Chagall to do the drawings. One of the freshest and mostly lively novels I have encountered for quite a while.” 
Jim Crace, author of Harvest and The Pesthouse

"A Highly Unlikely Scenario is a joyful book, full of the energy of undiluted invention and the thoughtful imagination of a writer to watch. It's a wild ride and much more—funny, intelligent and entirely pleasing." 
A.L. Kennedy, author of Day

"Cosmic and comic, full of philosophy, mysticism and celestial whimsy. A story of listening, of souls and bodies, that is at once both profoundly wild and wildly profound." 
Charles Yu, author of How to Live Safely in  a Science Fictional Universe

“Part Italo Calvino, part Ray Bradbury, in this extraordinary novel, Rachel Cantor explores questions of self-knowledge, true love and family, all while saving the world—and winning readers—in the past, present, and future.”
Hannah Tinti, author of The Good Thief

"A sharp, witty, and immensely entertaining debut... Cantor's skill in rendering complex and highly believable characters makes for an unexpectedly moving tale."
Emily St. John Mandel, author of The Lola Quartet

"I didn't know I needed a mystical Jewish Douglas Adams in my life, but Rachel Cantor is it, and her Guide makes me shep naches every time I turn a page. Buy this book, bubeleh! It will surprise you in ways large and small, and it will fill you with delight."
—Emily Barton, author of Brookland

"[A] rambunctiously smart, pun-spiked, and sweet dystopian romantic comedy... Glimmering with 'signs and wonders' and laced with satirical jabs at technological intrusiveness and deception, Cantor’s funny and charming metaphysical adventure and love story is a wily inquiry into questions of perception, knowledge, mystery, legacy, and love."
Booklist

"Cantor’s novel will be a great hit for fans of Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe. There’s a lot going on here, and all of it is amusing."
Library Journal

One of Barnes and Noble's "7 Books for fans of George Saunders": "Cantor’s characters, including unlikely possible prophet and pizza-chain employee Leonard, his supernaturally powerful nephew, and the woman Leonard loves, are as earnest as Saunders’ in their attempt to live good, meaningful lives in a broken society."

More About the Author

RACHEL CANTOR was born in Hartford, Connecticut, and raised in Italy. She worked for jazz festivals in France and food festivals in Australia before getting degrees in international development and fiction writing. Her short stories have appeared in The Paris Review, One Story, Kenyon Review, Fence, and numerous other publications. She has lived in seven U.S. states and worked in fifteen countries on six continents. She now lives in Brooklyn, where she is always at work on another book.

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Popular Discussion Topics

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  • "Characters" 3
  • "Emotional" 2
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Solly Gursky on January 16, 2014
Format: Paperback
This book has more heart than is really fair. Yes, it's an amazing satirical romp through a world of all-powerful fast food chains and an ominous Leader, but at the core of the thing it is a quiet, deep, and sometimes wrenching story about family, about love, about stories themselves.
Yes, there is time travel and yes some awesome karate kicks, but none of the hijinks feel extraneous or out of place. A deeply satisfying book, for lovers of Gaiman at his funniest, Pratchett at his most heartfelt.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By saustin203 on January 16, 2014
Format: Paperback
I loved it, pure and simple. It's fast-paced, hilarious, and deep down really touching. I was rooting for Leonard! Rachel cantor weaves in history, mythology, fast food, and just the right amount of dystopian kookiness. If you're a fan of George Saunders or Super Sad True Love Story, you've just found your perfect next read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jack F. on January 20, 2014
Format: Paperback
I don't know why the person who gave this book one start did so, but they gave dozens of other books 1 star each as well, every single one of them, so maybe there's a plan there....

I loved the book - found it funny, touching, intriguing, and thought-provoking. For such a crazy premise, there was not a single sentence I found forced, a single page I found slow, dense or fluffy.

I can easily see this as a movie, though a graphic novel might be what can really do it justice.

Highly recommended.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Katz on January 20, 2014
Format: Paperback
I hadn’t expected to laugh out loud about Isaac the Blind or Marco Polo, but Cantor’s wit and imagination make this unlikely scenario a delightful read. Where else can you find Barbecuties or dancing Hebrew letters? I loved this book and recommend it to anyone who has a heart and a sense of humor.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Book Babe on January 14, 2014
Format: Paperback
This novel is a great, fun read. I blew through it! When the adventure takes off it's really fun. The characters are very engaging -- you root for timid Leonard to get out of the house, get the girl and save the world. And Leonard's relationship with his brainy young nephew is so sweet. Great for anyone who likes a time-traveling, intergalactic comedy adventure!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By JudithAnn on January 25, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
The subtitle of this novel is great fun: Or, A Neetsa Pizza Employee’s Guide to Saving the World. The story itself? I found it rather weird, but in an attractive way.

The idea is fun: a pizza company complaints officer accidentally gets a call from a 13th Century explorer. After the first struggles about going off-script, they start having interesting conversations (well, interesting for them, I was rather confused) and eventually, Leonard is persuaded to leave his safe place and go out in the world… to the library, of all things!

There is time travel involved (yay!) and I loved that part of the book. I wasn’t too sure about all the different groups of people, with their philosophies. Was I supposed to look up what these people really stood for, or was it just a bit of name-dropping, a bit of fun? Maybe a bit of both.

It was a highly amusing story although I’m still not quite sure what it was about. It’s one of those books you are not likely to forget soon, because it’s so different.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Law Geek on February 5, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
The tone and narrative this book was excellent. I find myself endeared with the characters and reading usually defined what happens next. However for speculative fiction book I found world building to be less than adequate.

Like so many great speculative fiction writers, the author does not give a background to the alternative world, but there tells it and drips and drabs through allusions made to it throughout the book. Unlike Atwood and Adams, however, this world is not fully fleshed out using this method. Rather the reader left confused as to what this world fully looks like, whether it is an alternative reality over future, and the background to the setting.

The elements seem randomized - unexplained sci-fi technology, single Leader but many different political factions, an Indian word for a thousand, and ancient term for distance. Once we travel back in time, I was fairly certain we were in our own past, but that was never clearly established.

This was really disappointing, since the alternative reality is so very promising at first. The idea of distinct movements based on different historical figures (Roger Bacon, Pythagoras, Mao) and the notion of each operating their own fast food franchise is clever and interesting. If only the author had stuck to this theme and fleshed it out more it would have been an excellent read.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By MW Flid on January 20, 2014
Format: Paperback
Extraordinary book - the author manages to never let the scholarship or wackiness overwhelm the core narrative and heart felt characterization on display. Loved it.
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