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Ambient by Jack Womack

Book cover for Ambient
In 21st century Manhattan, a good portion of the citizenry consists of freaks engendered by a nuclear accident on Long Island. The freaks, or "ambients," of the title still retain a sense of community missing everywhere else in the world, however. Civic authority, such as it is, lies in Dryco, a conglomerate that controls the government. But things are falling apart inside Dryco. CEO Dryden Jr. believes that founder Dryden Sr. is destroying the company's solvency by speculating in Bronx real estate. Dryden Jr. persuades O'Malley, the novel's protagonist, to assassinate his father. The attempt misfires, and O'Malley must scramble to save his own life. Womack cites, and thus invites, comparison with A Clockwork Orange. But while Burgess used similar material to make serious fiction about connections between violence and dehumanization, and good and evil, the violence here merely titillates, and the tale is empty of moral resonance and meaning.