“Overthrow: A Novel” by Caleb Crain— A Thriller About Contemporary Manners


Crain, Caleb. “Overthrow: A Novel”, Viking, 2019.

A Thriller About Contemporary Manners

Amos Lassen

In Caleb Crain’s brilliant new novel, “Overthrow” of how we live today, we meet Mitchell, a graduate student as he is walking home. He sees Leif on his skateboard and is immediately attracted to him. As the two men chat, Leif invites Matthew to meet some of his tarot card experimenting friends who claim that it is quite easy to discover what people think. Before long, Matthew who should be working on his dissertation, is both involved in the group and quickly falling in  love with Leif, after all, they do share a love of poetry.

When the group visits the Occupy movement’s encampment, “they hope their ideas about radical empathy will help heal a divided world and destabilize the 1%.” Instead they have trouble with a freelancing security contractor. They eat and at the faith and on the powers they’ve been nurturing damaging love relationships. Elspeth and Raleigh, two of Leif’s oldest friends, are tested and must see if  their relationship can stand criminal charges; Chris and Julia, have their loyalties tested; and Matthew is forced to decide exactly what he owes Leif to maintain his love entranced by the man at the center of it all, will have to decide what he owes Leif and how much he’s willing to give him.  The characters face “a time of reckoning with the ambiguous nature of transparency and with the insidious natures of power and privilege. This is the story of what can happen as a result of searching for a new morality in a world controlled by technology, law and surveillance that change our boundaries and who we are. In this kind of world ambiguity and unease are characteristic of how we live and love.

Writer Crain examines candor, truth and the utopian spirit in the modern world that is controlled by  technology and surveillance. Written in gorgeous lyrical prose we see that being aware is the best way to defend ourselves during these changing times. Our story is told as an intimate love story that is both romantic and realistic and also terrifying.
The Occupy moment has made a stronger critique of capitalism popular  and led to overt forms of surveillance. As our characters deal with strains on their friendships, we see how surveillance affects how we think, relate and communicate to each other. I was totally engrossed the entire read and am still thinking about it.

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