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April 2003
© 2003 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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The Buzzing by Jim Knipfel
Vintage/Random House HCVR: ISBN 1400031834 PubDate: March 2003
Review by Paul Giguere

288 pages List price 25.95
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What if the conspiracy theorists are right and there are aliens among us, the government is covering up conspiracies everywhere you turn, and the State of Alaska engages in abducting people? That is what Roscoe Baragon, a beer-guzzling, burnt out newspaper reporter working the “kook beat” for a New York daily newspaper strives to find out, often with hilarious results.

Baragon’s penchant for filing stories which be doesn’t believe to be true, such as the ancient curse of the Museum of Natural History, usually riles his editor and ticks off friend and foe alike. When a series of what seem to be unconnected events: a radioactive corpse found in a park, earthquakes in the Arctic, and tales of a secret society called the Seatopian Republic, come together, Baragon begins his transition from a hard-edged skeptic to that of a believer (who may be becoming just as crazy as the people he interviews). The result is a fun, exciting, and fast-paced adventure.

The Buzzing is a first novel for Jim Knipfel, a columnist for the New York Press and author of two non-fiction books (Slackjaw and Quitting the Nairobi Trio). Published by the Vintage Books imprint of Random House and with a glowing recommendation on the cover by Thomas Pynchon, Knipfel is no lightweight. If I had to put a label on The Buzzing, I would call it a slipstream book which crosses over from mainstream fiction and has some science fictional elements. The novel should appeal to readers who are familiar with James Morrow, Patrick O’Leary, and Tim Powers. Although the plotting has a tendency to unravel just slightly and pacing could have been better, it is clear that Knipfel is vying for the a seat at the fiction table previously held by writers such as Kurt Vonnegut and Joseph Heller. If you're looking for something off the beaten science fiction track, give The Buzzing a try.

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