City on Fire | Penguin Random House Canada
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City on Fire

Publisher: Anchor Canada
A big-hearted, boundary-vaulting novel that heralds a remarkable new talent: set in 1970s New York, it is a story outsized in its generosity, warmth, and ambition, its deep feeling for its characters, and 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; 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--which stretch from post-Vietnam youth culture to the fiscal crisis, from small-town Georgia to greater L.A.--open up the loneliest-seeming corners of the crowded city. And when the infamous blackout of July 13th, 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.


New York Times Bestseller
New York Times Top Book of 2015
Vogue Best Book of 2015
A Forbes Best Book of the Year

A Library Journal Best Book of the Year
A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year
A Guardian Best Book of the Year
A San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of 2015

"Irresistible. . . . A sprawling chronicle of 1970s New York. . . . Pick it up, or suffer the consequences of a year spent on the outside of the cultural conversation." —The Globe and Mail

"[City on Fire] is worth the lumbar pain it might give readers who haul it with them on their daily commute. . . . A deeply engaging investment of time, worthy especially as a display of Hallberg's outsized ambition." —Maclean's

"[A] fleet-footed novel that attests to its young author's epic ambition and boundless talents." —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times Book Review

"Epic, monstrous, beautiful. . . . Hallberg is such a natural writer, affectless and as smooth as cream." —NPR

"A grand, ambitious and extraordinarily well-written work." —The Atlantic

"A soaring debut. . . . Over the course of Hallberg's magisterial epic, distinctions of class, race, geography and generation give way to an impression of the human condition that is both ambitious and sublime." —Vanity Fair

"Garth Risk Hallberg has written the kind of debut novel that only comes around once every 20 years or so—one that everyone who’s read it roots for. . . . An edge-of-your-seat epic, which is as tightly told as it is ambitious." —Elle

"It's hard to believe this layered, 944-page 1970s New York epic is a debut: The glitter and grime of the city's punk heyday are captured in gorgeous detail as multiple stories converge." —Entertainment Weekly

"A meticulous rendering of the period and equally ambitious in scope." —The Independent (UK)

"City on Fire is a formidable achievement in more ways than one . . . a book for our time." —New Statesman (UK)

"A wild plunge into the bleak haze of late-1970s New York. . . . The best and biggest debut of the year . . . A book that is truly that great, rare thing: a wholly inhabitable universe, reflecting back our lives while also offering an exhilarating escape from them." —Rolling Stone 

"Garth Risk Hallberg . . . has written a great American novel on his first attempt. His undertaking is huge, his delivery is excellent. . . . Here is a novel in which the plot is the rhythm section, not the melody, and it stays free of labored explanations and a forced climax. Hallberg's City on Fire is resolute and powerful." —Paste Magazine

"Stirringly ambitious. . . . A sprawling warehouse of a book stacked high with conflicted characters and interwoven stories, City on Fire reads like the ultimate post-mortem on 1970s New York. . . . At once a modern-historical novel and a timeless examination of the human impulses that frustrate the search for belonging, justice, self-worth and peace of mind for those at both the bottom and top of the economic ladder. Out of the alienating darkness, Hallberg has fashioned something profoundly illuminating." —The Seattle Times

"An epic story that should resonate with those who actually hung out at CBGB and those who show their affinity by wearing vintage Ramones t-shirts." —Metro News (Toronto)

"Completely engrossing. . . . This magnificent first novel is full to bursting with plot, character and emotion, all set within an exquisitely grungy 1970s New York City. . . . Graceful in execution, hugely entertaining and most concerned with the longing for connection, a theme that reaches full realization during the blackout of 1977, this epic tale is both a compelling mystery and a literary tour de force." —Booklist, starred review

"[Garth Risk Hallberg] has produced a novel which reaches its climax with a backdrop of vandalism, looting and arson in the 1977 New York City blackout—a story of such scale, ambition and readability that it has become this year's publishing sensation." —The Guardian (UK)

"Epic, well-written, and highly entertaining . . . Throughout, Hallberg expertly handles the multiple shifts in perspective, vibrantly portraying a specific time and place and creating memorable characters." —Library Journal, starred review

"Hallberg's maniacally detailed, exhaustingly clever depiction of 1970s New York is packed with urban angst, intellectual energy, and sinister pitfalls, much like the city it evokes." —Publishers Weekly

"Both intricate and daring. [Hallberg's] treatment of the 1977 blackout, especially those moments when the lights are flickering and about to go out, delivers a terrific cross-section of the city." —Chicago Tribune

"[City on Fire's] lifeblood is its almost sociological look at the clashes of culture and wealth that threaten to engulf the city whole, and Hallberg's characters, who manage to unearth moments of hope and connection amid such impending calamity. It is in these small glimpses of humanity that the book becomes as big as its author's ideas. And more important: a book deserving of its hype." —Esquire

"An ambitious showpiece for just how much the novel can contain without busting apart. The very-damn-good American novel." —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

"In his sprawling debut novel about death, love, money and art in 1970s New York, Hallberg writes with style and sophistication about everything from urban decay and punk rock to domestic terrorism and the dissolution of the nuclear family." —San Francisco Chronicle

"A deeply ambitious first novel, surveying no less than the sum of 1970s New York City, with a Dickensian eye for detail and richness of character. It pulls the reader in and leaves you wanting more." —Star-Telegram (Fort Worth)

"An immersive story and a distinctive contribution to the field of what might be called the fictional sociology of urban life. . . . As you give yourself over to the spell of City on Fire . . . you'll appreciate that any shorter and less intricately constructed work wouldn’t have done justice to the ambition and power of Hallberg's transfixing vision." —StarTribune (Minneapolis)

"Moving and beautiful, City on Fire explores what happens when the walls we put up suddenly come crashing down." —Mashable 

From the Hardcover edition.