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The waitress Glade Spencer--white-blond hair, perfect skin, just twenty-two years old--drifts innocent and waiflike through life, thus far avoiding harm to herself . . . Barker Dodds, hoping to shed his hard-man reputation, has fled his native Plymouth for a fresh start in London.
There, meanwhile, in an act of desperate inspiration, an ambitious young executive faced with a saturated market contrives a revolutionary strategy for introducing a new beverage, Soft!, that has all the potential of becoming the soft drink of the twenty-first century.
Once this highly confidential strategy develops unforeseen complications, Barker is paid a visit by
a friend from the old life, and soon is presented
with an unthinkable dilemma. And the person with whom he now shares a destiny--unbeknownst to her--is Glade.
Rupert Thomson, author of The Insult ("A psychological thriller that has just about everything"
--Cleveland Plain Dealer), here explores the price of ambition, the difficulty of change or escape, and
the needs that drive us or that we ourselves create; and in Soft! he again transforms the conventions
of noir--whether contract-killing or romance or the classic double-cross--into fiction that is remarkably contemporary and strange.
At first glance, the thrillers of British author Rupert Thomson seem to have nothing in common except the expansiveness of his imagination and the lucid radiance of his writing. Air & Fire is about a group of French people sent to California at the end of the 19th century to build a church. The Insult is about a man blinded by a robber in a supermarket parking lot who discovers one night that--because of a bizarre experiment--he can see again. Thomson's latest finds three very different characters--an aimless waitress, a reluctant hit man, and an ambitious young marketing executive--linked by the sudden success of a new soft drink. But a closer look confirms the feeling that Soft! continues the author's fascination with the way science can bend and shape the destinies of all sorts of nonscientific people. Certainly Glade Spencer, the flaky young woman who flies off periodically for unpleasant encounters with her American lawyer boyfriend, has no idea when she signs up for a sleep clinic to earn some extra cash that the soda slogans planted in her brain could cause her death. Barker Dodds, the nightclub bouncer from Plymouth, doesn't know why he's being paid to kill Glade. And James Lyle, the striving marketer who thought up the brainwashing scheme in the first place, is deliberately out of the loop about its consequences. All three are so perfectly drawn that you'd recognize them on the street, and the way Thomson describes their quirky, weirdly decorated flats and lifestyles captures the flickering pulse of London with uncanny accuracy. --Dick Adler
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