THE CANVAS OF A Visit from the Goon Squad is so intricate that you will be tempted to diagram it as you read, to keep track of the myriad connections between its 13 main characters. Sasha works for Bennie who was mentored by Lou who used to fuck Jocelyn who was best friends with Rhea... and so on. Each chapter is devoted to a single character; as their lives intersect, author Jennifer Egan unobtrusively generates an elaborate social map, a novelization of the Facebook-networked landscape in which we all live. The 13 characters' storylines aren't discrete and compartmentalized because our lives aren't discrete and compartmentalized, not anymore.
Goon Squad covers a lot of ground, from the late-'70s Bay Area punk scene to an imagined future in which musical trends are determined by handset-wearing infants. The music industry provides the book its skeleton, with changes in music's consumption and dissemination mirroring how culture itself is changing. In true post-modern fashion, even as Egan casts a sardonic eye on the direction technology is leading us, she appropriates tech-based conventions—one chapter is told entirely in PowerPoint slides, while another relies on text messages for much of its dialogue.
Egan knows how to entertain a reader without pandering—A Visit from the Goon Squad is that rare combo of highly readable and uncompromisingly smart, as it ambitiously maps the strange new world we live in.