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Random Acts of Senseless Violence (Jack Womack) Paperback – September 1, 1995


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A sort of prequel to his previous novels (Ambient, Elvissey, etc.), Womack's latest may be his best, a dark and riveting look at where our disintegrating, crime-ridden society may be headed. The only difference between Womack's near-future New York City and our own is that everything is just that much worse. Police and the National Guard patrol the poorer areas as though they were occupied territories; riot fires burn continuously in Queens and Brooklyn; jobs are as scarce as affordable homes and the streets are perilous. Womack displays this bleak world through the diary of 12-year-old Lola Hart, a student at a private girls' school whose financially strapped family moves to Manhattan's poor and troubled Upper West Side, on the edge of Harlem. There two new friends, Iz and Jude, teach her how to steal and instruct her in the ways of the mean streets. As bad turns to worse for her family, despair twists Lola into a vengeful killer. With a street-slick future-speak worthy of A Clockwork Orange and an unflinching eye for the degeneration of our cities, Womack portrays a relentlessly convincing tomorrow that will leave no reader unmoved.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

New York City in the near future: open warfare rages in Brooklyn, smoke from an unspecified toxic disaster fills the sky above Long Island, troops patrol Harlem streets, tuberculosis is rampant, inflation is zooming, and youth gangs rampage through the streets. Nationally, the situation is even worse; presidents are murdered within months of taking office, and riots are wrecking most of the major cities. This is the world of Lola Hart as recorded in a diary she receives on her 12th birthday. The mutating language of her diary reflects her own metamorphosis from prissy private school girl to murdering gangsta poised to disappear into the netherworld of New York's deadliest gang. P.K. Dick Award-winning novelist Womack's (Elvissey, Tor Bks., 1992) apocalyptic vision crackles with intensity, made more memorable by its controlling voice, as original as Alex's in Anthony Burgess's A Clockwork Orange or Russell Hoban's Riddley Walker.
Charles Michaud, Turner Free Lib., Randolph, Mass.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Jack Womack
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; Reprint edition (September 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802134246
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802134240
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #494,405 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Tom Museth on February 13, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is one of the finest novels of near-future America ever written. That may sound like a sweeping statement, but Womack's terrifying vision of the final years of a 20th century where an adolescent army exerts a brutal discipline on New York, global warming and pollution have turned summers into poisonous nightmares and the country's economy is disintegrating almost as fast as accepted social values has no sharper, keener rival in contemporary fiction.
I first read this book in 1995 after being sucked into Womack's twisted universe through Elvissey, still one of my favourite sci-fi novels. And though the science fiction genre has broadened vastly since the days of Ray Bradbury and Arthur C. Clarke, Random Acts still defies simple categorisation. There's no doubt it has sci-fi elements, but Like Orwell's 1984, I feel that Womack has tried not only to illustrate a nightmare portrayal of the near-future, but grasp the zeitgeist of mid-90s American society and break it down into its basest elements, shaping it and containing it in the most ideal setting in which to maximise its sense of claustrophobia, paranoia and arrogance - Manhattan Island.
The rapid urban decay of a world where presidents are assassinated like flies, police and soldiers wield their power like medieval tyrants, poorer neighbourhoods have reverted to tribal warzones and an inherent culture of hate, fear and anger permeate daily life is presented superbly through the diary of 12-year-old Lola. Womack's keen sense of Lola's pre-adolescent mind coming to terms not only with the crumbling world around her but also deeper, personal issues such as the disintegration of her family network and her own blossoming sexuality always remains evocative and concise.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By "raisingrrl" on December 13, 1999
Format: Paperback
I work nights at a very dull, low-paying job, so I spend quite a bit of time reading books from my college library. I was beginning to despair of finding a decent, *original* read when I checked out RANDOM.
I am in chills just writing about it.
RANDOM is a story about a young girl, Lola, living in an apocalyptic New York City. Womack's story is like a haunted house; at the entrace you're a bit giddy and excited, but by the time you reach the main staircase you're drooling into your collar and crying for Mommy. The only difference is that the haunted house has an EXIT door. RANDOM ends in a spiral of infinite darkness.
Womack's amazing use of language helps to illustrate the breakdown of Lola's remaining innocence and humanity. She exchanges her teenage babble for the angry, nearly incomprehensible tongue of the anarchy, and by the last page, she has become a stranger to us, and where she leads we cannot follow.
The violence and despair is glaringly evident on every page without lapsing into out-and-out gore, and Lola's foray into physical love with other girls is provocative without being seedy.
Like Margaret Atwood's HANDMAID'S TALE (another terrific futuristic drama), RANDOM presents us with a picture of what could happen to our world if society contiunes on a certain path. Without lecturing or making any overt political statements, Womack shows us the truly evil sides of both the extreme right and the extreme left.
This was my first time reading Womack, and since I hope to keep my dull night job at least until I graduate, I'm sure it won't be the last.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Leah on October 16, 2001
Format: Paperback
I first read this book back in '95 when I was an employee at Tower books in Seattle. I'd read the back and the inside flap and was skeptical that I'd like it. The format of 1st person and diary form are two things I normally don't care for. I could not have been more wrong. It's 6 years later and I am still raving about this brilliant and horrifying tale, I have a signed 1st edition copy and a reading copy to loan out to everyone I can.The disarming narrative of 12 year old Lola Hart lulls you into her adolescent world of friends and budding sexuality only to turn her world and Manhattan upside down with sadistic entusiasm. This story is not for the faint of heart. The transformation of Lola after her family circumstances turn from prosperous to dire is sheer literary genius in it's insidious simplicity. Not only is Lola's character so compelling but Womack never misses an opportunity to saterize society with sharp painful jabs of scathing observation and wit. This book works on so many LEVELS!!!!
You cannot put it down and after you've read it you will never forget it. The last sentence (and don't you dare skip ahead and read it) knocked the wind out of me. I stared at it for a long time. This book is on par with such classics as Perfume, Johhny Got His Gun, Catcher in the Rye, and A Clockwork Orange. I even named my dog after Lola. Everyone should read this book.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Bucky VINE VOICE on October 13, 2001
Format: Paperback
In this amazing novel, Jack Womack creates an unforgettable and heartbreaking character in Lola, a twelve-year-old girl who receives a diary as a gift and in it chronicles her own descent into barbarism as her family moves down the social ladder in some future, hellish version of New York City. While the colorful invented slang is reminiscent of A Clockwork Orange, for me, on another level, the novel brought back memories of Lord of the Flies. As the adults around her try to cope with the chaos and depression in their lives and recede into the background of her life, Lola finds herself increasingly on her own. She and her friends band together in order to survive in a hostile environment, and bit by bit, Lola sacrifices her humanity to her need to make it through another day. In the end, no matter how cultured she is, no matter how well educated she is, she surrenders to the beast within in order to stay alive. This is a tragic novel in the truest sense.
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