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High above Manhattan android and human steelworkers are constructing a new Tower of Babel for billionaire Harry Gant as a monument to humanity’s power to dream In the festering sewers below a darker game is afoot a Wall Street takeover artist has been murdered and Gant’s crusading ex wife Joan Fine has been hired to find out why The year is 2023 and Ayn Rand has been resurrected and bottled in a hurricane lamp to serve as Joan's assistant; an eco terrorist named Philo Dufrense travels in a pink and green submarine designed by Howard Hughes; a Volkswagen Beetle is possessed by the spirit of Abbey Hoffman; Meisterbrau a mutant great white shark is running loose in the sewers beneath Times Suare; and a one armed 181 year old Civil War veteran joins Joan and Ayn in their uest for the truth All of whom and many besides are caught up in a vast conspiracy involving Walt Disney J Edgar Hoover and a mob of homicidal robots


10 thoughts on “Sewer Gas and Electric The Public Works Trilogy

  1. says:

    Satirizing the last drop out of anything thinkable giving so many innuendos and connotations that the poor brain hurts welcome one of the most unknown social commentary comedy hybrid authors In contrast to Ruff´s first work Fool on the hill this is easier to read and get the puns but it´s still at a level that one read might not be enough to get the full package It also doesn´t have the over the top extreme meta and abstract philosophy and culture focus it´s down to earth dealing with real very severe problems and possibly his best work although I haven´t read Lovecraft country yet so let´s seeI also don´t get why it´s ratings are behind Set this house in order an ingenious character focused work that hasn´t the same complexity or message as this one May have something to do with this sick fetishization of characters over metaplot it´s terrible as if there wasn´t already an extreme majority of onesided protagonist celebrating works over complex art forms even authors dancing on different genre weddings are appreciated for the one detailed perspectiveRuff plays with different genres over his career making this the sadly only sci fi comedy hybrid something truly uniue with just other rare exceptional authors such as Robbins coming close to the complexity and weird style of this indie author prodigy And it´s so vivid character fragments and actions will definitively stay in mind I just can´t get behind how he does this Although in his case of studying creative writing and taking years to polish and finetune his works the uestions might be easier answered than in other cases education talent and hard work united do the job And magic It´s one of these pieces one has to reread after years maybe after wiseness not in my case has kicked in and one sees things differently after having consumed new books and evolved to new strange ideology crossovers or has had complete 180 degree turns to the other extreme This could make the second consumption of this work with an enlightened or degenerated mind even enjoyable Tropes show how literature is conceptualized and created and which mixture of elements makes works and genres uniue


  2. says:

    This book is FanTasTic and so fun to read It combines mind bending wacky ideas with neat characters in the setting of New York City in 2023 There's some sci fi and some mystery and Lots of hilarity I laughed out loud every 10 pages or so Included in this book are environmental warnings conspiracy theories artificial intelligence and some very interesting ideas about how Americans really feel about black people All of this is wrapped up in a clever package that you should read


  3. says:

    Sewer Gas and Electric is an utter failure as an sf novel—if science fiction must be defined as a serious attempt to predict the future anyway From the large scale to the small Sewer Gas and Electric's prognostications about the early 21st Century have almost uniformly failed to pan out The Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts haven't merged into one urban exploration club; there are no high speed trains criss crossing the US; nor are there twin towers still looming over southern Manhattan's Battery Park Hugo Gernsback would be horrified I'm sure About the only thing Matt Ruff did get right and I'm not sure how he managed that was that red stateblue state complete with shades of indigo and purple would become the shorthand for the conflict of reactionary rural values versus liberal urban policiesFortunately science fiction is not solely about prediction and fortunately Sewer Gas and Electric is not at all a failure On the contrary—Sewer Gas and Electric is a madcap romp and a delicious skewering of a particularly odious mindset about which belowIn short Sewer Gas and Electric is a lot of funThe plot well inasmuch as the plot matters it triangulates on Harry Gant trillionaire industrialist and perennial little boy whose vast empire includes continent crossing railroads immense skyscrapers including one in Manhattan called the Tower of Babel which if it's ever completed is slated to be a full mile high a la Frank Lloyd Wright and legions of android servants Against Harry is his ex wife Joan who works in the sewers armed to the teeth against mutant crocodiles and other denizens of the toxic sludge that flows beneath Manhattan's streets Except that Joan's not really against Harry She still harbors some feelings for him Far menacing is Meisterbrau a Carcharodon megalodon with no love for either Joan or HarryAnd then there's Philo Dufresne and his polka dotted submarineWhat is it about the notion of a submarine that attracts fictional anarchists and freethinkers anyway? It's not as if you can build and run a giant sub in the real world without the resources of a navy or the euivalent behind you From Captain Nemo to the Beatles though the smoothly humming underwater luxury cruise vessel owned and operated by a proud loner is a staple of fiction And here it surfaces again heh see what I did there? as the eco pirate Dufresne's transportation of choice euipped with giant creme pie flingers and other ingenious tools of performance art interfering with Gant's corporate shipping in a thoroughly unacceptable and highly entertaining manner Despite Harry Gant's undeniable charm Sewer Gas and Electric is not especially kind to him or his corporate peersNor is Sewer Gas and Electric especially kind to the so called Objectivists those admirers of the émigré writer Ayn Rand and in particular her immense and turgid magnum opus Atlas Shrugged John Scalzi pretty much sums up that particular work for me by the way although somehow his respondents didn't think to mention Sewer Gas and Electric until comment #139 Joan spends a lot of time carrying a holographic replica of Rand through those aforementioned sewers chain smoking to Rand after all every cigarette lit was a tiny reminder of Prometheus' gift of fire and arguing philosophies Despite or perhaps because the replica uses Rand's own words to defend itself Joan definitely holds her own in the ensuing debateSewer Gas and Electric isn't perfect though In particular parts of the plot involving the Pandemic that killed off a billion dark skinned people made me uncomfortable especially on second reading I do not presume to know how a person of color would appreciate the notion—introduced fictionally mind you and not at all with approval or as any kind of wish fulfillment but still—that almost all of the world's Africans and people of African descent had died offstage of what was plainly an engineered disease and then as if genocide weren't enough been replaced in the US by robotic caricatures called Electric Negroes the best selling product of the Gant corporate empire Ruff's satirical barbs make some serious and laudable points about racist America to be sure but I don't think this book is always sensitive as to how it makes those pointsMy biggest problem with Matt Ruff though is that he just doesn't write enough Sewer Gas and Electric is only his second novel out of a total of just four to date though according to his website another is in progress On the plus side this makes him easy to catch up on—at least if you can find his work at all; he doesn't tend to show up on a lot of shelves Which is a shame On the other hand though well if always leave 'em wanting is a reliable maxim at all it applies to this guyRead it—if you can find a copy


  4. says:

    This has the lunacy of Roald Dahl the social commentary of Douglas Adams and the tongue in cheek liberal guilt of a collection of Stuff White People Like blog entries along with scholarly Bible references lovingly Asimov derivative sci fi and Ayn Rand rejecting the premise of a knock knock joke This is my third Matt Ruff novel and I love it like I have loved his other work This is a story set in the distant future of the 21st century it's not uite post apocalyptic like mid apocalyptic as envisioned in the early 1990s so there are many explorations of the environmental issues that were in vogue at the time and examinations of the political correctness trends of the time all done with compassionate satire A corporation has perfected the domestic android and while they originally produced models in every variety of shape and skin pigmentation it turned out that when consumers purchased human shaped helpers certain racial characteristics were wildly popular and the main characters mostly corporate employees or former employees have various amounts of white liberal guilt for this unforeseen conseuence After a few chapters Ruff gets the plot moving when some of the main characters investigate a situation in which one of the androids may have violated its programming by beating a corporate raider to death with a copy of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged Hence the lunacyRuff tells a story that is funny and exciting drawing in delicate subjects like race sexuality and religion by treating them with respectful humor He lets the book drag here and there as his characters drift into Platonic dialogues with a hologram of Ayn Rand but never for too long Even though the most prevalent tone is a humorous one of course Ruff also gets to show off his talents for writing tense chase scenes and action seuences never with uite the bone chilling menace of the unforgettable Rubbermaid scenes in Fool on the Hill A Novel but close enough so thriller fans will likely be satisfied by this novel Sewer Gas and Electric is simply a treasure of a book a joy to read and to ponder and I highly recommend it


  5. says:

    The last sentences of this book in the acknowledgments areThanks also to the New York Times newspaper of record for confirming that even in a rational universe 'far fetched' is a relative term In an article dated February 10 1935 the Times recounts the story of a group of teenagers who found a seven and a half foot alligator in a Harlem sewer dragged it up onto the street and beat it to death with shovels Public works officials have since denied the existence of any reptile larger than a turtle in the New York underground but we know the truthThis is a good book It reads like a bizarro novel Ruff doesn't spend too much time telling us all about this amazing new world of his instead he give a story and treats us like we should understand the world because it is the God damn world after all He talks about the future as it existed in thereby allowing us to place the book within our lifetime The book opens with a guy from maine who's city experience was Bangor which made me smile The one issue which I had with the other Ruff book as well is a slight inability to keep all of the people straight Even when all the people aren't in the same head Ruff creates so many characters that at least for me even after over 400 pages I am not positive on how clear I am on who all the characters were There also seemed to be a few characters just hanging around for comic relief not that it was a problem


  6. says:

    I had to stop I'm sorry I hate not finishing books but this one increasingly felt like a waste of my ever precious reading minutesYeah this book is crapThis book was very bad It is not genius clever or even that interesting The characters are not developed in any real way and the premise and plot situations are sophomoric and trite This reads like a college student who had just read some philosophy and other literature decided to write a novel based on what he'd just learned Had Ruff just read Ayn Rand before he wrote this? There's really no excuse for using her as a character in this book It's unfair to and not even funnyThis book was a waste of time and my whole book group agreed It just made us angry I advise you to use your time wisely to read something worthwhile I can't believe this got published Is it possible to give negative stars as a rating?Gosh this book sucked


  7. says:

    WTFThat's pretty much the only way to describe this book I loved it I don't really remember the entire plot even though I've read it at least 4 times and I'm pretty sure the plot made sense when I read it What sticks with me are the vivid images in my head of certain scenes and moments in the book permanently rendered there by the clever phrasing of the textI highly recommend this book I wish I could coherently tell you why but you can't always get what you wantBut if you try sometimes you get what you need The holographic image of Ayn Rand's head projected in a storm lamp to answer uestions and guide you on your search


  8. says:

    'Sewer Gas and Electric' mixes ideology and fantasy in a funny witty and inventive manner The novel gives a creative and intelligent conseuentialist interpretation of what the world could be like in 2023 while at the same time drawing in philosophical dialogues concerning morality the environment and unrestrained liberal capitalism Would not recommend this book for someone who has difficulty keeping tack of many characters or following multiple plot lines May suggest reading Ayn Rand's 'Atlas Shrugged' prior to reading this book


  9. says:

    “But Aristotle has written—” “Forget Aristotle He only covers research and development This is consumer marketing” “Which philosopher should I have studied to comprehend consumer marketing?” “Munchhausen”Absurd? Of course it’s absurd; that’s the point But better written than many similar tales of the silliness of modern life Better than average advocacy fiction“So you lied to yourself” “The first symptom of true intelligence Selective self deception How’s that for a Turing test?”Still I don’t recommend this to sensitive introspective readers It’s satire as subtle as a Mack truck Rude crude and full of platitudes though Ruff allows viewpoints other than his own stage time—if only to knock down their strawmen And lots of profanity“What makes war terrible isn’t that the soldiers are men; it’s that men are soldiers Let women become soldiers—or politicians or diplomats—and you haven’t changed war at all”Ironic What actually happening in the first two decades of the twenty first century was as improbably as what Ruff wrote He mentions Cray PCS several times Younger folks may not recognize that reference to the super computer pioneer killed in a stupid auto accident about the time Ruff published And wrong Remember when faxes were a big deal? Remember faxes? “Thanks to the New York Times newspaper of record for confirming that even in a rational universe ‘far fetched’ is a relative term”


  10. says:

    Matt Ruff has written three novels in a literary career spanning nearly two decades; all three are rooted somehow in fantasy and should be regarded as fine examples of speculative fiction Sewer Gas Electric The Public Works Trilogy is a dazzling hilarious cyberpunk adventure set in the New York City of 2023 Ruff conjurs up a bizarre almost dystopian view of a near future New York City laced with the political wisdom of Ayn Rand who returns resurrected as a major protagonist in this novel Multi billionaire Harry Gant strives to build the tallest building in the world while his ex wife Joan Fine is joined by Ayn Rand as they wage war against homicidal robots and a sinister conspiracy involving Walt Disney and J Edgar Hoover the FBI's legendary first director within the sewers of Manhattan Ruff's novel is just as hilarious as Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash but uite a bit longer And not only are there apt comparisons to Stephenson's work here but I can see some influence from the likes of Thomas Pynchon Bruce Sterling and William Gibson too Fans of Snow Crash and other cyberpunk fiction will not wish to miss this book Without uestion Sewer Gas Electric The Public Works Trilogy is Ruff's splendid sopho outing and demonstrates to me why he may be the finest writer ever to have graduated from New York City's prestigious Stuyvesant High School Reposted from my 2004 review