Book Review: Shovel Ready by Adam Sternbergh

Shovel Ready by Adam SternberghShovel Ready: What it is about

The publisher says: “Spademan used to be a garbage man.  That was before the dirty bomb hit Times Square, before his wife was killed, and before the city became a blown-out shell of its former self.

Now he’s a hitman.

In a near-future New York City split between those who are wealthy enough to “tap in” to a sophisticated virtual reality, and those who are left to fend for themselves in the ravaged streets, Spademan chose the streets.  His new job is not that different from his old one: waste disposal is waste disposal.  He doesn’t ask questions, he works quickly, and he’s handy with a box cutter.  But when his latest client hires him to kill the daughter of a powerful evangelist, his unadorned life is upended: his mark has a shocking secret and his client has a sordid agenda far beyond a simple kill.  Spademan must navigate between these two worldsthe wasteland reality and the slick fantasyto finish his job, clear his conscience, and make sure he’s not the one who winds up in the ground. 

Shovel Ready: What I thought

I never thought of Spademan as an unpleasant person. So he kills people for a living? Well, we all need to eat, right? This is how it felt, probably because most of the book is narrated by Spademan himself. He used to clean up garbage, now he cleans up people who are considered garbage by others. No problem. He doesn’t want to know the why and so, never gets involved with his clients or his targets.

When his next job is killing a young woman, he has trouble catching her, as she is on the move. He starts looking into her circumstances in order to figure out where to find her, and then he does start to care: he’s more keen to go after the client than after the woman he’s supposed to kill.

This is a fun story that takes place in a post-apocalyptic New York. Times Square is radio-active and many people have left for towns in the countryside. Many of the rich who stayed behind are more or less permanently connected to a system that brings them into a dream state. Spademan has to enter someone’s dream in order to fight his last battle. He’s not keen to tap into the system but he does a few times. I found this really scary as he was dependent on other people to get him out of the dream again. What if they didn’t?

A good read, although a little slow in the middle. There were also a few too many crooks that I didn’t always recognise the next time they appeared in the book. The setting is described very convincingly. A strange, but interesting book.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars (good)

Number of pages: 246

First published: 2014

I got this: from the publishers, Crown Publishers, via my Dutch rep

Genre: science fiction, dystopia

About Leeswammes
I'm owner and editor at In my free time, I read and review books on my two blogs, Leeswammes' Blog and De Boekblogger.

6 Responses to Book Review: Shovel Ready by Adam Sternbergh

  1. Leslie says:

    Oh good – I like strange and interesting. I plan on reading this next week.

  2. Haha My thoughts were exactly Leslie’s! I like strange and interesting! I also love a good post-apocalyptic read.

  3. Mystica says:

    I like to see authors create such imaginative scenes such as this one!

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