Ask a Bookseller: 'Bubblegum' offers a 'wonderous slog'

The cover
"Bubblegum" by Adam Levin
Courtesy of the publisher

Bookseller Dan Carlisle was intrigued the moment he unpacked the box containing new copies of Adam Levin's novel "Bubblegum." The cover was colored and, more strikingly, scented like bubblegum.

The bookseller from Taylor Books in Charleston, West Virginia dove in.

"I would describe it as a wonderous slog," said Carlisle of the nearly 800-page book, filled with humor and clever wordsmithing. (The paperback, out now, is not scented.)

The novel is set in a version of the present day in which the internet does not exist. Instead, clever inventors in the 1980s and 90s created Botimals: tiny, adorable robots made of flesh and bone. They became an enduring, world-wide craze. The novel follows 38-year-old Belt Magnet, who as a child was an early recipient of the new technology when they were being piloted as an alternative to therapy animals.

The complex novel explores everything from viral ideas to violence as it wends its way. Though this alternative technology is the unique jumping-off point for this novel, "it's not so much the Botimals that are the problem; it's the humans," says Carlisle.

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