September/October, 2015 Volume 9, Issue 5
Scott Whitaker Reviews
Gary Beck’s Flawed Connections, $20.99 from Black Rose Writing, details the rise of a software startup company during the Giuliani days of New York City. Beck’s characters rise out of the narrative like hot soap opera stars, privileged, misunderstood by their parents, and already acclimated to posh lifestyles. The irony of course, is the children Ted, Pill (or Phillipe), Kevin, and Lys are symbols of the post Vietnam generation’s greed; for the most part, children of liberal progressive thinking. They have come home to roost, so to speak, and instead of making the world a better place, as their parents wish them to do, they want to take their own path and make boatloads of cash. And party. And hook up with beautiful people. And party. the action takes off immediately as Ted comes home and tells his parents he wants to drop out of Yale. He wants to travel Europe with his friends, Kevin, son of old money, Pill the son of a Viet Nam general who travels with a French speaking bodyguard of sorts, and Lys, the lesbian daughter of socialites who has been banished by her family for her sexuality. From the get-go Beck gives us the entitled generation, raised with a bourgeois bank account and sensibility, let loose upon the world. Beck’s America in Flawed Connections is one of gross comforts. A world where the boat is always ready to go out for a sex party, and where money problems are reduced to finding financial backers, rather than say making rent or paying for a new vehicle. These characters represent the upward mobile class of the late 1980s and 1990s whose computer games and software would launch a thousand millionaires into the 21st century. This is a generation that has given us Google, Facebook, Twitter, Minecraft, and smart phones, just to name a few. All wonderful toys, yes, but something more than a toy, products we project into and identify with. And Beck hits all the right notes. You kind of want to live their life for a while, and go with the flow. Beck writes with the sharp eye of a camera, and he leaves no stone unturned.Ted’s parents serve to play around with broader themes such as family, mid-life marriage tactics, and the flawed or possibly failed vision of the 1960s as it played into the new millenia. Beck covers the start-up venture methodically, and the gang enjoys a lavish lifestyle. If you love to read about parties, glamor, and being wealthy, Beck’s got your number. Eventually the gang creates “Combat Evolution”, a video game that makes them super rich. Now they aren’t living on their parent’s credit, they’re living on their own credit. And things go swimmingly, sex, money, success, sex, success, and then an accident puts Phillipe in a coma, and the events bring the rest of the crew closer together, at least for a while. It is at this point in the narrative that Lys and Ted cross the friendship lines and embark on as sexual relationship. Friends, business partners, should probably never become lovers, but Lys and Ted are good with each other, Ted being Lys’ first man. Kevin becomes entangled with a woman who may or may not be a good fit for him, and the gang continue to work, trying to expand their empire. Flawed connections indeed. And it is these relationships, and Phillipe’s medical condition that becomes the crack in the cement of the group’s well laid foundation. At times the action moves to Washington and as Clinton is being skewered for the Lewinsky scandal, Beck seems to enjoy using it as a frame for his own characters behaviors. And as business grows, so do the headaches, which begin to compound in the final arc of the novel. Ted bears the brunt of it, and it is through his pain that we feel the end of the 20th century. Beck chronicles a computer start up company with meticulous detail; his character are by products of the day, and Beck explores the rich lifestyles of the dot com explosion with aplomb.