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The Boy in the Box: A Novel

In this highly original, Kafka-esque novel, Smith tries to recruit others to help him solve the mystery, only to encounter the same resistance and denial. He concludes he must solve it on his own. Fast-moving and accessible, this book is a suspenseful, surreal foray into a city that no one really knows, where the pain and danger of being an outsider in an eerie, menacing and anonymous world can both frighten and amuse.
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Nelson's brilliant novel reveals itself to be a contemplation on society and existentialism...The plot delves into myriad issues-personal responsibility, the idea of community, perception vs. reality, differences of perspective, free will vs. destiny-without preaching about any of them...Nelson's writing is simple and stark, not unlike that of Kafka or that other great existentialist-novelist, Albert Camus...Satisfying...The Boy in the Box is above all else one man's pondering what it means to be human. -- Steve Greenlee The Boston Globe AsThe Boy in the Box cuts a paranoid arc through a superficially mundane New York, it also hauls aboard, for one, Joseph Heller, in Smith's hilarious but frightening encounter with a couple of cops...who call to mindCatch 22...Not to mention Philip K. Dick...and Jorge Luis Borges...Throughout, first-time novelist Nelson speaks with his own assured and wonderfully askew voice in what becomes a dizzying, disorienting and shockingly entertaining meditation on the nature of reality and the concept of free will. -- Arthur Salm The San Diego Tribune(Also Printedthe Florida Newsp A sort of AmericanCandide...Nelson does evoke the strangeness of being alone in a new city. In the end he makes the reader realize that the book is the box, and Smith is the boy in it-or maybe you are. Recommended. Library Journal The reader empathizes with Smith for the apparent heartlessness, fear, and unfriendliness of New Yorkers...Nelson has created a wonderfully realistic world...The allusion to Franz Kafka is evident, but Mr. Nelson has a theme and style all his own as the reader is drawn ever tighter into the concentric circles moving not inward, but outward into the unknown. -- Corinna Lothar The Washington Times A Kafka-laced concoction full of jarring, calibrated effects, for those who take their fiction dry and chilled. Kirkus Kafkaesque...a shadowplay in a mirror, a metaphor. -- Whitney Scott Booklist, (American Library Association) [Nelson] plays a cagey, Kafkaesque cat-and-mouse game with reality and illusion...[and] manages to make the book work on two levels, sustaining his thin plot while developing enough mysterious atmosphere to lend events a more surreal significance...Nelson creates an edgy, compelling world that will remind readers of Paul Auster and cartoonist Ben Katchor. Publishers Weekly Nelson has constructed a strangely telescoped panorama of urban life...[His] characters seem peculiar yet tangible...The Boy in the Box is a smooth, if puzzling, read. Nelson's stripped-down prose belies the complexity of his odd tale. -- Elisa Ludwig The Philadelphia Inquirer Like Kafka'sThe Trial or Beckett'sWaiting for Godot, this novel is a deceptively straightforward puzzler that yields no certain solution...As absorbing as the narrative itself are Smith's ruminations as he emerges from each new encounter. -- Edward Morris Foreword Reviews A harrowing and deftly written mystery...A strongly recommended, darkly suspenseful novel. -- James A. Cox Midwest Book Review The Boy in the Box is an intriguing, well-crafted novel which reveals itself like a perfect box, within a box, within a box...I read it as if unwrapping a series of puzzling gifts, and only at the end, upon unwrapping the last one, did I fully understand what I received-and realized that I got what I wanted. -- Jack Gantos, 1998 National Book Award nominee Eerie, surreal, timely,The Boy in the Box will haunt you long after you have closed its cover. Nelson has written a novel that echoes Ionesco, Kafka, Camus, and Marx (as in Groucho, that is). It is as strange and unsettling as our times. -- Robin Hathaway, author of The Doctor The Boy in the Box is deliciously disquieting and as thought-provoking as a Zen riddle. With lean, vibrant prose, Lee J. Nelson takes his protagonist and the reader on a search for elusive answers that is both entertaining and insightful. The New York backdrop is skillfully drawn. -- Michael Biehl, author of Doctored Evidence

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