Alan Glynn – The Dark Fields/Limitless (2001)


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What the hell does this book have to do with Bradley Cooper? Well, I’m glad you asked that question. Alan Glynn’s novel, The Dark Fields, was initially released in 2001  but has been more recently re-released in book stores [as well as in movie theaters] under the title, Limitless. The film version, as you are probably aware, stars Bradley Cooper in the leading role. This review, however, is going to focus on the printed version which, in many many ways, is different from the film adaptation. [For the record, I would without hesitation recommend the book over the film.]

The Dark Fields‘ plot centers on Eddie Spinola, a self-loathing, struggling writer living in New York City (he has a whole Holden Caulfield vibe going for him at first) who comes across his ex-brother-in-law, Vernon, on the streets of the Lower East Side. Vernon, who is a drug dealer, hooks Eddie up with a designer drug called MDT-48, promising that it will change his life. Despite some initial skepticism, Eddie pops the pill, and voila!, his intelligence, productivity and concentration improve one-hundredfold. Following this surreal experience where he is able to finish the book he was working on as well as reorganize his entire apartment, Eddie is hooked. After procuring a large supply of MDT-48, he embarks on a journey of unbelievably successful writing, textbook devouring, stock trading and womanizing. Soon, though, he finds himself suffering from a few side effects such as memory loss, withdrawal symptoms and entanglement with, shall we say, people of an unsavory repute. Through these juxtaposed exploits, the novel takes an interesting look at addiction, super-intelligence and the effects that one, the other, and both have on the human psyche.

This book was an extremely fun read. The concept of science making people smart is simple but Glynn makes it very compelling – as Eddie takes advantage of his newfound power, the reader enjoys the ensuing perks along with him: decadent food, chic fashion, beautiful people and wild nights among New York’s socialites, to name a few. Scientifically manipulated intelligence is an idea also explored in one of my favorite novels of all time, Flowers for Algernon, which, interestingly enough, was also adapted into a film, Charly.

The Dark Fields wasn’t always a breeze to get through, however. Some parts of the book seemed forced; Eddie’s relationship with the Russian gangster, Gennady, felt unnatural. To me, it was lazy writing. Gennady primarily served as a plot catalyst, popping up sporadically to push certain events into motion that the author wanted to happen. On the flip side, a character like Ginny Van Loon served absolutely no purpose except as a page-filler and occasional object of lust for Eddie. Lastly, the ending came about a bit suddenly and may leave many readers dissatisfied and wanting more (I actually liked it).

Despite these complaints, however, The Dark Fields was not only a real page turner, but as I said,  it was an interesting take on addiction and a fun glimpse into the lives of business magnates and public figures. I would recommend this book to a pretty wide swathe of readers: it’s psycho-fiction for your “techies”, a casual beach book for the summer, a mystery novel, a techno-thriller, New York City poplit but most of all, it’s just plain fun.

Beer/Drink Suggestion:
A lifestyle including light to moderate alcohol consumption
Okay, so that’s not exactly a drink suggestion per se, but it is a drinking habit suggestion. As many news articles and laboratory studies have documented, there is a scientifically-proven correlation between light to moderate drinking and intelligence (as measured by IQ). So, if you want improve your cognitive abilities, skip the MDT-48 and head straight for the liquor cabinet. Your brain will thank you for it.

If You Liked This You Might Also Like
Daniel Keyes’ Flowers for Algernon, Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Identity, Philip K. Dick’s short story “The Adjustment Team”, Isaac Asimov’s short story “Lest We Remember”, Dennis Lehane’s Shutter Island, Jay McInerney’s Bright Lights, Big City, Ted Chiang’s Understand

Rating

4 out of 5 stars

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