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Unplugging Philco: A Novel Paperback – April 14, 2009

5 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Set in a not-so-distant future, when the United States has declared war on Australia as a result of a mysterious explosion known as The Horribleness, Knipfel's mordant and funny latest charts a year in the life of Wally Philco, a New York City insurance company employee who, fed up with a nosy neighbor, the Stroller Brigade of militant mothers, the advertisements beamed into his brain and government snoops, begins disabling the many devices that monitor him. His unplugging results in his being recruited by the Unpluggers, a group of revolutionaries camped out in an abandoned section of the subway system. As he learns more about the group and its plans to strike back at the totalitarian state, he becomes the group's unwitting figurehead. Though the novel sometimes falls victim to less than refined humor (citizens must carry, for instance, SUCKIE identity cards), the twisty plot (including a surprising turn at the end) combined with Knipfel's sharp wit and dark vision add much satirical sparkle to this dystopian romp. (Apr.)
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From Booklist

The running joke: just wait until they put chips in our heads. Always up for satirical mischief, cult-favorite Knipfel uses this vision of diabolical digital infiltration as the template for a zesty dystopian tale. Mild-mannered Wally Philco tries to be a Good Citizen. He has the requisite chip implants. He works diligently in his cubicle. He puts up with countless surveillance vids, aggressive ad screens, the continual babble force-fed through his Earwig, and television-on-steroids. But he has had it with the vicious Stroller Brigade and their bratty offspring named Amex and Google, his mean wife, the toxic synthetic food, the “ratter” neighbor, the drug tests, and the constant fear of being accused of the crime of “Unmutualism.” Riffing mordantly on 1984, post-9/11 propaganda, mindless consumerism, and techno-addiction, Knipfel gleefully salts Wally’s breakneck adventures with caustically naughty acronyms and wistful romance. As he imagines an unplugged underworld and an all-seeing, all-powerful corporate empire, Knipfel forges a grimly funny condemnation of digital tyranny and the sacrifice of rights and privacy for the pipe dreams called convenience and security. --Donna Seaman
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 374 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Original edition (April 14, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416592849
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416592846
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.3 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #940,291 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I really enjoyed this book! It was a lot of fun to read: try to imagine if Mel Brooks had written George Orwell's 1984 to get a sense of the themes and humor that is pervasive throughout. There also might have been a message about the errosion of our individual freedoms and stuff like that, but I mostly liked the poop jokes.
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For those of you who can't or won't handle an online piece of writing with a lot of words; in a nutshell, I've been reading my way through Knipfel's works and this is clearly the best of the bunch so far.

But, if you're the type of person who can't handle a piece of online writing with a lot of words, you should seriously take a shot at getting over it and look at the inside of this book, as you are part of the problem it illustrates.

Let's start with the obvious comparison to George Orwell's "1984". 'Eighty Four was a great book and all, pretty much a textbook example of what good literature should be. A thought-provoking potential prophecy of a future in which the Big Brother we've all heard about has imposed a totalitarian rule on the masses. Our post-WWII world has seen a societal cage-match struggle between freedom and security, and in both "1984" and "Unplugging Philco" freedom has been beaten into a bloody pulp, with one central character coming across freedom's comatose shell and tentatively, at first, trying a little CPR.

But let's be honest here. Do you really think basic human nature would change upon the imposition of a totalitarian police state? That the ever watching presence of our overlords would change the fact that some people are just a-holes? Of course it wouldn't. Honestly, would the low-level incompetence and stupidity that is such an integral part of society change simply because the nature of that society is radically different?

Of course it wouldn't. Incompetence and stupidity are universal themes of the human condition. That's what Knipfel understands that Orwell did not. Impose an electronic iron curtain and there will be people who never quite learn how to work the machinery very well.
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I love that this book is available in kindle. I also love the book. It should be required reading in junior high, high school and college, perhaps it would shake a few awake.
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