A big-hearted, boundary-vaulting novel that heralds a remarkable new talent: set in 1970s New York, a story outsized in its generosity, warmth, and ambition, its deep feeling for its characters, its exuberant imagination.
The individuals who live within this extraordinary first novel are: Regan and William Hamilton-Sweeney, estranged heirs to one of the city's largest fortunes; Keith and Mercer, the men who, for better or worse, love them; Charlie and Samantha, two suburban teenagers seduced by downtown's punk scene; an obsessive magazine reporter and his idealistic neighbor; and the detective trying to figure out what any of them have to do with a shooting in Central Park. Their entangled relationships open up the loneliest-seeming corners of the crowded city. And when the infamous blackout of July 13, 1977, plunges this world into darkness, each of these lives will be changed forever. A novel about love and betrayal and forgiveness, about art and truth and rock 'n' roll, about how the people closest to us are sometimes the hardest to reach - about what it means to be human.
Read by Rebecca Lowman with Macleod Andrews, Alex McKenna, Paul Michael, Tristan Morris, and Bronson Pinchot.
"City on Fire is a big, stunning first novel and an amazing virtual reality machine, whisking us back to New York City in the 1970s with bravura swagger and style and heart . . . The ghosts of New York memorialized by earlier writers—F. Scott Fitzgerald, J. D. Salinger, Richard Price—hover over City on Fire…[In] Hallberg's XXL tool kit as a storyteller: a love of language and the handsprings he can make it perform; a bone-deep knowledge of his characters' inner lives that's as unerring as that of the young Salinger; an instinctive gift for spinning suspense. He also possesses a journalistic eye for those telling details that can trigger memories of the reader's own like small Proustian grenades…A novel of head-snapping ambition and heart-stopping power—a novel that attests to its young author's boundless and unflagging talents." (New York Times)
"A remarkably assured, multivalent tale...an epic panorama of musicians, writers, and power brokers and the surprising ways they connect...The story never feels overwritten, and the plotlines interlace without feeling pat...At times the novel feels like a metafictional tribute to America's finest doorstop manufacturers, circa 1970 to the present: Price (street-wise cops), Wolfe (top-tier wealth), Franzen (busted families), Wallace (the seductions of drugs and pop culture), and DeLillo (the unseen forces behind everything). That's not to say Hallberg has written a pastiche.... As his various plotlines braid tighter during the July 1977 blackout, his novel becomes an ambitious showpiece for just how much the novel can contain without busting apart. The very-damn-good American novel." (Kirkus Reviews)
"Dazzling…City on Fire is an extraordinary performance…Hallberg inhabits the minds of whites and blacks, men and women, old and young, gay and straight with equal fidelity…making every one of them thrum with real life…And what endlessly fascinating characters they are!...[The novel's] Whitmanesque arms embrace an entire city of lovers and strivers, saints and killers." (Washington Post)
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Good story, poor choice of narrator
- Ian Judson