Review of The Manipulator - by Steve Lundin

I gave this book 4 of 5 stars on Amazon and Goodreads!

Joe Vance is an addict, mildly psychopathic, and is the country’s best advertiser, a modern day Draper. As the novel begins, Vance is struggling to regain the pinnacle of fame and fortune in his industry after falling from grace and forced out of New York. He chooses to go big and talks a new company into using his ideas to launch their TV Network, MVN. Based around controversy, his idea is to use a weight loss show Some Will Die, as the flame to ignite the countries loyalty to MVN. The premise of the show is similar to other weight loss shows, but in an attempt to fill the gap that violence in football (now tamed down) has left, there is the real possibility of death on the show due to the short timeframe and lofty goals. Armed with financing and the support of his staff, Vance launches into a whirlwind of hijinks that take him across and even outside the country. The characters he meets and does business along the way are colorful and multidimensional. The Hulking Russian thug who is brought on to “curate” the obese contestants has a personal stake in the success. A very recent former subordinate of Vance’s does everything in his power to bring down Vance’s plans for MVN. An old and buried politician sees the possibility to once more bask in the limelight and begins an operation that will ensure he returns.

Vance is a character I loved to despise. Ultimately though, I began to appreciate his conniving and ever intensifying ability to create success.

The novel is a satirical look at the dark world of advertising and the length people will go to succeed. It is not the type of book I usually read but I was intrigued throughout and am glad I tried it. The writing was excellent and strong. The only gripe I had early on was the sudden shifting of scenes and characters that confused me a bit, but once I learned the characters it was fluid and enjoyable. The novel is not for young readers as it has drug, alcohol, and some sexual references.

Overall, I enjoyed the novel and recommend it to anyone who wants a glimpse at the underbelly of the advertising world from an author who has worked in journalism for 20 years and who wants to go on a fast and mind-bending ride. The writing style and tone and the engaging characters connected with me (and repulsed me) and I look forward to more from Steve Lundin.   

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