The Dewey Decimal System, by Nathan Larson (2011)

Genre: Mystery
Interest Level: Adult
The Dewey Decimal System (novel)Not what you might think! This first novel is set in a post-apocalyptic New York City where the bureaucracy has a tenuous hold on the infrastructure. We never find out what happened on 2/14, though there are hints of a superflu and terrorist attacks. Now vehicles run only on electricity, the subway is automated and power supply is spotty, though some live nearly normal lives. Narrating is a hit man who works for the city, eliminating “problems.” He’s found haven in the main branch of the New York Public Library, where he’s set himself the goal of organizing the mess of books. It has earned him the nickname of Dewey Decimal, which suits him fine as he doesn’t remember his name. He’s quite certain his memory was messed with when he was in the military hospital after being injured in combat, and is no longer certain was is true and what was planted. To cope, he has a system in place (hence the title) that borders on obsessive compulsive disorder, over-relies on Purell, pops pills that calm his racing heart, and follows his strong though warped ethics as he goes about his work. I finished it in just a few days, but I wanted to like it more than I did. It’s written well enough, with moments of brilliance, such as this gem when he returned “home”: “The very stairwells, the walls, the forests of literature enfolded me, said good to see you back, soldier. Here you’ll find rest, and poetry.” But other times it feels forced, as though the author was following a recipe. “Insert profanity, refer to system, mention guilt.” It’s the first in a series apparently, and I won’t be continuing it. I will say it’s affecting – I’m still thinking about it, which is always the sign of a good story. I just wish I’d liked it more.
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