Exposure Review
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In the not-so-distant future, Los Angeles is bombarded by the media. It’s the age of Moving Image Billboards (MIBs), plasma screens that scream their messages and advertisements in public bathrooms and on street corners. And the star of the MIBs is Colt Reston, a minor-league baseball player with an irresistible face. Everywhere you go—whether you’re walking down the sidewalk or watching a new blockbuster at the local theater—you see Colt Reston.

But Colt Reston isn’t happy with his fame. He’s afraid that it’s too much—that it’s taking its toll on him. He can’t go out in public without a highly illegal, totally unrecognizable disguise, and he feels tired and depressed all the time. It doesn’t help that the current best seller, an anonymous, untitled book decrying the dangers of media saturation, popularly known as The Black Book, decries him as overexposed and overhyped. And the lonely superstar has no one to turn to but Marshall Reed, a former minor-league pitcher whose brilliant screenplay broke Colt into Hollywood. Though Marshall hasn’t written a thing of his own in years—which could have something to do with his raging drug addiction—he’s Colt’s closest (and oldest) friend.

Things are only getting worse for Colt. It begins with a murder attempt that leaves him understandably shaken. Then a strange disease begins to take over him. Concerned for his old friend, Marshall decides to start asking questions—but that only puts him in danger, too.

Exposure is smart and often darkly funny. But it’s also a seriously unsettling book—perhaps because, as you read it, you can see the truth in it. As I read about the MIBs and the constant media saturation of the future, I couldn’t help but think about the screens that recently started popping up in our grocery store, hovering above the produce section and at every single check-out lane—or about the people who can’t seem to put down their BlackBerry, or about those who can’t function without the constant soundtrack of their iPod (or about those who, like me, tend to check each incoming email the second it comes in). And that’s what makes Exposure so creepy—because you can see it happening. It’s just too close for comfort. But the thing that makes Exposure so disturbing is also the thing that makes it so gripping. It doesn’t take too much of a stretch of the imagination to get caught up in the story—to keep flipping pages, wondering how it’s all going to end.

Unfortunately, after a fascinating build, Exposure’s ending isn’t entirely satisfying. Wenzel leaves a few too many unanswered questions, and the answers that he does provide feel somewhat anti-climactic. It doesn’t have the thrilling end I’d hoped for, but the rest of this chillingly clever novel will leave you with a lot to think about—and that makes it worth picking up.

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