"Gripped" by Jason Donnelly

A very entertaining piece of social satire very much in the vein of Chuck Palahniuk (only without Palahniuk’s highly descriptive “gross outs”). The Palahniuk comparison is meant to be a compliment and the comparison lies in Donnelly’s ability to hit the nail right on the head when it comes to all the absurdity that permeates our present culture. Gripped imagines a world where everyone, everywhere is somehow “programmed” by marketing forces, social media, pop culture trivia which passes itself off as “news”, branding, social media relationships replacing face to face ones...wait a moment.... 


This is what makes this novel the strong one that it is - Donnelly doesn’t have to stretch too far to “imagine” this kind of world. We are already there and for the protagonist it becomes nothing short of a nightmare - or does it? Meet Marky McCarren - a slacker sort (and chronic masturbator) who at the beginning of the novel gets himself into deep trouble with his boss which naturally leads to his immediate dismissal from his job. Now further down on his luck, he lies about his apartment wondering what he’s going to do with himself, reflecting on a life where he feels he hasn’t achieved much of anything. In the middle of the night he is awaked by an infomercial on TV, one that is directed specifically at him. It literally speaks to him and knows all about his life in such detail that he can’t believe that it’s actually happening. He soon finds himself becoming a part of something called The Program - a sort of amalgam of a self-help/marketing/cult like thing where the forces behind it are mysterious, invisible and absolutely one hundred percent privy to every moment of his life. Marky sees the opportunity to change his ways through The Program and decides to jump headlong into it. When he does, his life will never be the same. 


I’m not going to reveal what happens, of course. You have to experience it for yourself to see how it all plays out. We follow Marky - now just Mark, due to the commands of The Program (yes, commands) - as he becomes slowly immersed in what amounts to nothing less than life being one huge marketing campaign, where he (and others around him) are literally told to buy particular products, read particular newspapers, listen to particular music, watch particular movies, eat particular brands of food, etc and it’s all done in a very humorous - and terrifying - way. The Program has such a hold over his entire being you begin to realize that Donnelly’s satire is scarily close to the reality of the culture we currently live in, where our worth as human beings becomes increasingly connected (and controlled) by commodities, products and marketing forces. That’s what makes this a very poignant tale. There is a paranoid and menacing tone just under the surface that makes the reader begin to wonder that perhaps this isn’t much of a satire at all and is actually living in this kind of world all along without realizing it. Definitely worth a read and I bet once you finish this novel, you’ll start looking at the insidious way corporations have infiltrated our lives and how we all - yes, all - in one way or another, become part of “The Program”. 

Source: http://www.juliangallo66.blogspot.com