The Fourth Wall by Walter Jon Williams

(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

Sean is a washed-up child actor reduced to the lowest dregs of reality television to keep himself afloat.

His life was a downward spiral of alcoholism, regret, and failure…until he met Dagmar Shaw.

The world of Dagmar Shaw, however, is rarely straightforward.  People tend to die around her, and now she wants Sean for something.  A movie, she says, but who’s to say what her real game is?

I was introduced to The Fourth Wall by reading Walter Jon Williams’ Big Idea essay over at Whatever.  Intrigued by the idea behind the novel, I bought it on pure speculation, as I seem to do quite a bit when I read The Big Idea articles.  After all, it’s how I found out about Feed, to name one of the best examples.  And much like FeedThe Fourth Wall has a killer opening, which is not entirely appropriate for all readers.

“When you spot someone sitting at the beach wearing a headset for Augmented Reality, or wearing AR specs on the bus, or smiling quietly in the back pew of the church with his video glasses on, what do you think?

I’ll tell you what you think.  You think he’s watching porn.

This sets the tone for pretty much the whole novel: cynical, witty and a bit dark.  It’s also hard to classify this novel because just when you think you know what’s going to happen, the plot takes a sharp turn and you’re left mystified once more.  You really won’t be able to predict the ending either, which stays true to the dark, cynical atmosphere that Williams maintains throughout the novel.

Sean Makin is a washed-up child actor and even though The Fourth Wall is set in the future, he offers a lot of insight into the cutthroat world of Hollywood.  You see both the glamorous side and the incredibly dark side that no one wants to talk about.  Sean is the perfect character to tell a story like this because of his dark past and his highly cynical attitude towards life and acting.  He has a very sad past that adds a lot of layers to his character, making him a wonderfully three dimensional character.  There is no doubt in my mind he is a memorable character.

After enjoying The Fourth Wall so much, I have a feeling I’ll be reading and reviewing a lot more Walter Jon Williams novels in the future.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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