Top positive review
Philip K. Dick refuted on The Thirteenth Floor
Reviewed in the United States on September 12, 2010
The book is (in part) a Philip K. Dick paranoid conspiracy theory novel, and other reviewers have pointed out that they're so used to this kind of thing that they guessed the plot in advance, were bored by the device, and so on.
But Lethem adds a point that Dick and movies like THE THIRTEENTH FLOOR leave out: "conspiracies" cannot help but reduce themselves to interactions of human beings: those who conspire against you may be your friends and lovers, REALLY, even as their conspiracy continues.
This is new and interesting--but dry, best illustrated in the rather cold, self-mocking way which Lethem uses, and which negative reviewers here have commented on. Lethem has pointed out in his personal essays how he was drawn to a colder, more cerebral and more comic book-like art than his father produced.
Many reviewers have noted that the book's narrator, Chase Insteadman, is an uninteresting character. But so are we all. It would take novelistic trickery to make us interesting, and most novelists would not be interested enough in us to bother. Neither is Lethem, but he's interested in our situation. What should uninteresting people do? Dream of being at the center of a conspiracy? But would being a victim, or even being a conspirator, make them any more interesting?
To the five-star reviewers, yes. To the one-star reviewers, no. To Lethem ... who knows? But these are some of the points he covers.