He once fired a man on Take Your Daughter to Work Day. He had his assistant ghostwrite an op-ed piece on the death of literacy in America. He is currently on the board of a start-up that has the selling out of its stock and its principles built into its business plan. Meet J.P. Yates: futurist, bon vivant, low-grade sociopath and the hero of James P. Othmer's riotously astute and blazingly hip debut, The Futurist. This novel glistens with glossy, sound-bite-sized insights common to cyberprophets, culture vultures and advertising execs (Othmer's previous occupation). Though Yates' job is predicting future trends (or at least, knowing when it was the absolute best time to deem that which had long been cool to cool people cool for the rest of us ), he steps a little too far ahead of the curve by announcing at a conference that, in addition to not understanding the future, he doesn't even comprehend the present. If the people in this room were right just one percent of the time, Yates opines, we'd all be telecommuting from Tahiti, eating dinner in pill form, and having literal sex with our virtual selves. The consequences of this pronouncement are threefold. He gets booed offstage. He gets beaten up. He gets an offer from a shadowy pair named Johnson and Johnson to travel the world, all expenses handsomely paid, to discover an unstoppable wave in the ripple stages and report back to two highly connected, deeply unsettling guys . . . named Johnson and Johnson. At first, taking the money and running seems like a terrific idea, but Yates is weighted down by a certain piece of baggage generally foreign to con men: a conscience. Much as that irritating grain of sand grows ever bigger inside an oyster, so does Yates' sense of doing the wrong thing. Yates grapples with his demons, often hilariously, across a sumptuously depicted global backdrop. In a plot that features more twists than a strand of DNA, it's the futurist's coming to terms with his own personal future that makes this novel a can't-put-it-down read perfectly suited for the lighter summertime menu. Thane Tierney writes from the capital of cool, Los Angeles.

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