"Bright Young Things wanted for big project. SAE to PO Box 2300 Edinburgh." From the 2,000 men and women who respond to this intriguing ad, six are chosen: Anne, Jamie, Thea, Bryn, Emily and Paul. All are pulled into a bewildering world arranged for them by a stranger of whom they--and we, the readers--know nothing.
Best-known for her "Lily Pascale" mysteries--Dead Clever and In Your Face--Scarlett Thomas's new novel takes the genre of suspense and twists it. Part I opens with a series of brief character sketches of the bright young things--all, in one way or another, are discontented, looking for the way out that the advertisement appears to promise. Part II begins with the shock: "Where the hell are we?" "Is this some kind of island?" "Please tell me I'm dreaming". Our heroes have woken up outside the front door of a deserted house. "They were all lying next to each other, like a row of dead bodies". To survive, they must solve the puzzle of why they are here and what the mysterious orchestrator has in store for them.
"Why us?"' asks Emily, proposing a (lengthy) game of Truth or Dare. The suspense of the plot turns on the answer to that question, but it's a suspense that the uneven pacing of this novel finds hard to sustain. Scarlett Thomas concocts a heady mix of sexuality and psychology but, like her characters, the narrative falls short of the ordeal it presents. Sharing the curious emptiness of its protagonists (the more we are told about them, the less convincing they seem), Bright Young Things reads more like a script than a novel--something's missing. --Vicky Lebeau [via]