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Ed King Hardcover – Deckle Edge, October 18, 2011

3.1 out of 5 stars 91 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Guterson . . . retells one of the oldest stories we know in a way that makes you hang on every twist and turn. You know where you’re going, but the trip is such a literary sightseer’s delight that you still enjoy every minute of it. . . . Even as you know your final destination, the route Guterson uses will keep you entertained the whole way. The way he makes Ed-ipus finally see, peeling the layers back one at a time, is ingenious. Guterson is one of America’s most talented novelists. This time, he has taken on a daunting task and succeeded. . . . [Ed King] should add to Guterson’s already glittering reputation.”
—Howard Owen, Fredericksburg.com 
“Sweeping. . . Ed King, a reimagination of Sophocles’ ‘Oedipus Rex,’ the Greek tale of patricide and incest,  is grounded in spot-on morality tales of exceedingly normal people who are doing their best to struggle through their middle- and upper-middle-class existence. . . . We meet the characters of Ed King in ensemble fashion. While their stories—and the bonds that connect them—are the stuff of sometimes far-fetched fiction, their personalities and behavior are all too believable. These are people more or less just like us. . . . Guterson clearly has made his bet on nature, not nurture. What’s bred in the bone guides each character in this well-told tale. [Guterson’s] portraits of humanity are real, and exceedingly enjoyable to read.”
—Adam Lashinsky, The San Francisco Chronicle 
“It takes a lot of nerve and perhaps a special brand of madness to take on the classics, and it doesn’t get more classic than the ancient Greek tragedies . . . especially when the play in question happens to be Sophocles’ magnum opus Oedipus the King. Yet with his latest novel, Ed King, author David Guterson does what many might consider the unthinkable: brings Oedipus into the modern age. . . . It would be a shame to ruin all the twists and turns that Oedipus/Ed—who in Guterson’s version becomes a celebrity billionaire through the power of the Internet—faces on his journey. Even for those who are well versed in Sophocles, Ed King is filled with plenty of surprises and sly homage to the original (as well as a few other Greek myths), and half the fun here is reveling in the sheer cheekiness of the narrative. Ed King is not a new story, yet Guterson has managed to infuse this novel with feelings of freshness, relevance and even believability that are sure to delight 21st-century readers. A special pleasure will be experienced by those who can appreciate how the old elements have been modernized. Oedipus may not have been Guterson’s to begin with, but by the end, readers will have no doubts that Ed King is a creation entirely his own.”
—Stephanie Harrison, BookPage

“The Greek gods ran a pitiless universe. David Guterson's brilliant new novel, Ed King, mirrors that world, but it sets the wheels in motion in 1960s Seattle, as it follows the city's transformation from a sleepy, self-satisfied city to a 21st-century tech powerhouse. Ambition and desire drive the plot (it must be said that there is a whole lot of sex in this book) along with the fundamental irony that the road to hell is often paved with good intentions. . . . Ed King is compulsively readable and witheringly funny. Guterson's narrative voice—by turns savage and sad, amused and outraged—becomes a kind of Greek chorus of one. From the self-reverential blather of liberals to the gaming industry's nihilistic love of violence to the winner-take-all world of software and search engines, Guterson skewers it all, as he tracks Ed's ascendancy to the top of the tech world as the ‘King of Search.’ He interweaves the story with enough mythological references to keep even the most ardent classicist entertained. The technological titans of Ed King, walled off in their estates and kingdoms, and privy to the best life that money can buy, strive and strain with little thought to where all their efforts might be headed. It forces the thought: what have all the technological achievements of Microsoft, Amazon, Apple wrought, when it comes to changing certain fundamental certainties of human nature? Ed believes the sky is the limit. Will [he] cheat death? Will he dodge the bullet of fate? In the world of Ed King, what brings the all-powerful ‘King of Search’ to his final reckoning will keep the reader enthralled until the final page of this transcendently dark and dazzling book.”
—Mary Ann Gwinn, The Seattle Times

“For a while after I finished Ed King, I wondered: With cheap, easy, 24-hour access to humanity's weirdest, creepiest, freakiest behavior, do we need a reboot of the Oedipus myth? Guterson persuasively argues that the answer is yes. While his latest novel is indeed full of sex, Ed King stands at polar opposite to the sad line-crossings of pornography. Guterson has trucked with Ovid and Homer and dear old Mr. Sophocles to merrily smash taboos like crockery and bring into the 21st century the old story of a man who kills his father, marries his mother and becomes a god. Ed King is dense with Guterson’s customary needle-sharp prose. Guterson even drove me to my Bullfinch's to track the allusions to his sources. Those old stories survived millennia because they tell us about the human condition. Brave writers like Guterson can renew them to observe that some things are taboo for good reason; go ahead and break them, but there's no avoiding the consequences.”
—Anne Saker, Oregon Live 

 “In his daring novel, David Guterson reimagines Oedipus Rex in contemporary America. Unlike Oedipus in the original Greek drama, Ed is not royalty per se but the contemporary equivalent: a billionaire tech titan, ‘the King of Search.’  Born of a fling of a married man and a much-younger British au pair, baby Ed is left on a stranger’s doorstep and soon adopted. Ed grows up handsome, intellectually gifted, and powered by a relentless self-confidence. The narrative runs briskly through decades and multiple points of view as Guterson carves a wry edge into Sophocles’s tragedy about an abandoned baby who grows up to kill his father and marry his mother.  When [Ed and his mother] meet by chance, the attraction is immediate and the implications horrifying, though not to the lustily oblivious couple. Guterson keeps the novel winningly good-natured and almost farcical, all the better to teach timeless lessons about hubris, ambition, and the consequences of long-ago sins.”
—Karen Holt, O Magazine 
“[In this] tale of mythic proportions. . . . readers watch in horror as three disparate lives hurtle toward their fate in this reimagining of the Oedipus myth. . . . [Guterson’s] fans will likely clamor for this.”
—Sally Bissell, Library Journal 
“[An] engrossing, constantly twisting retelling of Oedipus Rex . . . darkly funny.”
 —The Huffington Post
“A retelling of Oedipus Rex for the information age [that is] more comedy than tragedy. Guterson maintains an enjoyably sharp edge to his humor that will keep readers hooked.”
Kirkus Review 
“How would a modern man go about killing his father and marrying his mother, just like Sophocles’ Oedipus? Guterson’s vivid recreation . . . is a study in outsized avarice and arrogance. Exuberantly rambunctious, Guterson’s bold pondering of the Greek classic is a fiendishly tantalizing romp.”
—Carol Haggas, Booklist, starred review

About the Author

David Guterson is the author of the novels East of the Mountains, The Other, Our Lady of the Forest, and Snow Falling on Cedars, which won the PEN/Faulkner Award, as well as a story collection, The Country Ahead of Us, the Country Behind, and Family Matters: Why Homeschooling Makes Sense. He lives in Washington State.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; First Edition edition (October 18, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780307271068
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307271068
  • ASIN: 0307271064
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (91 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,418,674 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Sharon Isch TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 27, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
It seems to me that when a reader is invited into a piece of fiction well aware of what its tragic outcome will be--either from previous acquaintance with the tale or promotion of the new version--then it becomes incumbent upon the author to deliver a protagonist that will come to matter to his audience--someone the reader can connect to, feel for and find interesting enough to want to spend several hours with. Sophocles pulls that off; Guterson does not. At least not for this reader.

In a previous life as a 12-year-old, I discovered a volume of Greek mythology in my late grandmother's attic, stashed it in our garage, and whenever forced to "get my nose out of a book" and go outside and play with the other kids, I'd sneak off and go hang out with the Greeks in the garage instead. Later, in college, I was part of the crew for a production of "Antigone," which I loved.

Now here I am all these years later having just put down (in order to "put-down" in its other sense) a modern-day adaptation of "Oedipus Rex," one of the most famous Greek tragedies of them all. At the beginning, I was excited about the idea of revisiting this old love of my youth as re-imagined by a winner of the PEN/Faulkner award. But I couldn't come up with even an ounce of interest in or empathy for any character in it and quickly lost my initial curiosity about how its author might manage to massage this ancient classic into a modern day novel with best-seller potential.

After force-feeding myself the first hundred or so pages, I started skimming, eventually coming to page 236 where I found a message to his readers inserted by the author. It begins: "Okay.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
David Guterson ("Snow Falling on Cedars") has long been a favorite Pacific Northwest author, although despite the urging of friends I've somehow failed to read any of his previous books. Other reviews indicate that he's a bit erratic - I cannot speak to his other books, but I can safely write that I love "Ed King."

Daring to play with classic texts is always a dangerous business, and in this case Guterson has set a high bar for himself by choosing Sophocles' "Oedipus Rex" as his source text. Arguably the definitive Greek tragedy of all antiquity, "Oedipus" tells the infamously sad story of a proud man who is condemned by fate to murder his father, marry his mother, and spark a million bad jokes.

Guterson dares to update this story to the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Ed King is our Oedipus and is born not to royalty, but is the child of an adulterous affair between the actuary Walter Cousins and his British au pair Diane. Cousins, a risk assessor by trade, knocks up the 15-year old and tries to do his part by her (without leaving his own wife). He has no idea how ruthless and ambitious young Diane is, however, and she is soon blackmailing him into years of child support even though she abandons the infant Ed on the doorstep of prosperous residents in Portland, Oregon.

In short order, King is the proud adopted son of ambitious Jewish parents in Seattle, a math prodigy and natural leader. His new parents never tell him of his adopted status, and after several colorful adventures he's off to Stanford during the 80s, just in time to capitalize on the tech boom and become a billionaire as "the King of Search." Oh, and he has an unusual, private hankering for older women . . .
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Format: Hardcover
I gave Ed King a shot because I knew David Guterson was a highly acclaimed "literary" novelist and the whole idea of retelling the Oedipus Rex myth sounded intriguing. Now that I am done with the book however, I feel the need to burn all my clothes and take a shower in Lysol. And not just because the billionaire "King of Search" (as in Google-like computer search) kills his dad and eventually marries his mother and has sex with her around 1,500 times (he kept a running tally) but because the entire novel is such a nihilistic romp through a sex- and cocaine-crazed world of empty realities both virtual and otherwise without a single character you can even remotely admire.

The only reason I am giving Ed King any stars at all is because Guterson writes so well. He can be wickedly funny and you feel he has something important to say about our information-swamped, over-indulged, tummy-tucked and self-absorbed modern age. He also throws a pretty sharp left hook at our tendencies toward raging hubris. You just wish he would let up on his one-two punches every now and then and work-in something even slightly positive to root for. The lack of even a smidgen of anything good and bright to serve as a contrast to all of his dark and empty luridness takes a lot of the wallop out of his punches.

I'm no scholar of Greek mythology, but I have to say, Guterson's interpretation of Oedipus Rex doesn't jive with what I remember about it from high school. He's got all the icky details of the story with its twisted plot of mistaken identities and crazy co-incidences niftily re-packaged for our current age, but I think he's missing the main point.
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