Book Review

Book review: Paradime by Alan Glynn

Synopis

Danny had intended to stay for two years, but his stint as a civilian contractor at a chow hall in Afghanistan is cut short after a mere four months when he witnesses the brutal and senseless murder of two TCN (Third Country National) after a food riot.

Back in the US and facing possible legal action for what he saw, Danny decides to make contact with Gideon Logistics in an attempt to assure his former employer he has no intention of rocking the boat and blowing the whistle on the company. His effort bears fruit when, much to Danny’s surprise, he is offered a job at Barcadero – a fancy restaurant on 44th Street.

It is peering out of his prep station in the kitchen into the dining area at Barcadero, that Danny first lays eyes on venture capitalist Teddy Trager – who happens to look exactly like him.

Danny initially becomes consumed by the idea of finding more about his double and, as time goes by, he is ultimately possessed by the compulsion to “become” Teddy Trager. It is at this point that, with the certainty of a sleepwalker, he abruptly quits his job at Barcadero, spends a fortune he doesn’t have to dress like Trager and starts stalking the headquarters of Paradime Capital.

As a carbon copy of the visionary entrepreneur, Danny succeeds – in a display of personative chutzpa rivaled only by hedge fund impostor Marc Dreier – to pass himself for the CEO of the company.

However, Danny quickly realizes the mistake he has made, when it becomes apparent that he – and indeed Trager himself – is nothing but a lonely puppet on a string, dancing to the tune set by  the industrial military complex.

Analysis

An underlying concept in the works of Alan Glynn is the ideal – or perhaps more aptly, the fallacy – of the perfectibility of Man. In Glynn’s first novel The Dark Fields (later re-released as Limitless to coincide with the movie adaptation by Leslie Dixon), Eddie Spinola goes from aimless drifter to high powered executive managing the biggest merger in American Corporate history. In Paradime, Danny Lynch travels a similar path, metamorphosing from lowly stove monkey to ersatz venture capital visionary.

It is a motif that has been somewhat abused as a plot device, but which is masterfully executed in Paradime, in a way that captures the oppressive sense of social and economic alienation in a post-Lehman world. In The Dark Fields, Eddie is stuck in a permanent roller coaster of emotions – swinging wildly between the exhilarating highs of enhanced cognition brought about by the mysterious nootropic drug MDT-48, and the excruciating lows of withdrawal. Danny’s trajectory, on the other hand, is far more linear with brief moments of euphoria punctuating a state of chronic fatigue and paranoia. Indeed, Eddie only realizes he’s doomed at the very end of The Dark Fields. Danny, on the other hand, knows it from the very beginning.

This may be Alan Glynn’s greatest talent: his unique ability to synthesize the spirit of each era. The Dark Fields captured the irrational exuberance and excess of the Dot-Com bubble, while Winterland – the draft of which was written during the boom years – predicts the meltdown of the housing market in Ireland. The atmosphere of unreality depicted in Paradime too is a perfect reflection of the Twilight Zone of negative interest rates and fudged unemployment statistics we find ourselves trapped in at the moment.