by S. G. Browne
“It used to be you were stuck with your own personality, your own identity, and any adjustments to your persona would only be as successful as your acting ability. That all changed with the introduction of Big Egos.The quote above sums up well the premise of S. G. Browne’s latest novel, Big Egos, set in the world as we know it with this one notable exception. Our first-person narrator works in quality control for Big Egos, so he’s an insider, an endorser, and a high-volume user of this product. He’s also a man in a less than satisfying relationship, and he’s experiencing serious second thoughts about having talked his best friend into his first ego trip:
Not everyone wants to alter who they are, to live a life that isn’t theirs and pretend to be someone they’re not. There are plenty of men and women who are perfectly content with their lives and their struggles and the comforts of their own identities. But for those who can afford it, for those who seek the thrill of experimenting with alternate personalities and temporary identities, Big Egos offers a respite from the mundane…
On CBS is an advertisement for Big Egos, ‘Does your lifestyle not fit the person inside of you? Try someone else on for size! For $3,000, you can change who you are by purchasing a DNA-encoded cocktail of your favorite dead actor, artist, writer, musician, singer, athlete, politician, talk show host, or television star. All legally approved by their respective estates, because if there’s one thing estate holders love, it’s money. You can even purchase an officially-licensed fictional character like the Luke Skywalker, the Mary Poppins, or the Harry Potter…’”
“I never should have introduced Nat to the world of Big Egos. Not that I haven’t enjoyed spending time with him. We’ve spent at least one night a week over the past month going to ego parties and bar hopping, pretending to be Luke Skywalker and Han Solo, Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. I’d almost forgotten how much fun we could have together.”That does sound like fun, doesn’t it? But there’s a dark side to this technology, and Browne’s light tale gradually becomes nefarious, heading in unexpected directions. Regardless, there are laughs to be mined from start to finish. First and foremost, Mr. Browne is a social satirist, and this set-up provides rich ground for examining contemporary culture.
Additionally, the author has great fun with the personas of the many famous characters that pass
“Give me a boat,” says Hemingway. “And the open sea. Nothing else matters.”As for his own writing, Browne’s use of language is smooth, unobtrusive, and peppered with amusing observations:
“What about complex sentences?” says Faulkner.
“Every day, Emily brings a Cinnabon with her to work, and nibbles at it and picks at it, until it’s nothing but a corpse of a cinnamon roll. A pastry victim, gutted and left for dead on her desk like breakfast roadkill.”Character development is a lot trickier. It’s hard to get to know characters that are constantly shifting personas. His narrator is a slick operator with a distinctive voice. The rest of the cast is more superficially developed. It should be clear, by now, that this is not a character study. Browne keeps his plot moving forward at a steady pace, and Big Egos is a quick and entertaining read. Consider it required reading for all pop-culture junkies.