I thought I was reading a collection of humor pieces. I picked up Evelyn E. Smith’s The Copy Shop on a whim. Published in 1985, it lacked a book jacket. The first pages were amusing.
It began with a rant. The narrator (who I assumed was the author) contends that the Upper West Side of Manhattan would be the perfect place for aliens to live, provided they could find an apartment, since they would blend in with the “joggers, muggers, bicyclists, beggars, shriekers in tongues, peddlers, pushers, flashers, winos, whiners, madmen, and the rest of that universe…”
And then she laments the vanishing of the species of “the true New Yorker, born and bred within the 320 square miles that make up the city…, a wary, low-profiled person, apt to get a bit freakish in old age, but essentially reserved, well-spoken, intelligent; above all, courteous, which the outlanders are not.”
In the 21st century, the outlanders are everywhere. We all miss courtesy and intelligence. In Manhattan in the 1980s in The Copy Shop, the narrator snobbishly categorizes and castigates the outlanders : “the loud, rude barbarians, whom the rest of the world mistakenly regard as typical New Yorkers, are aliens, arrivistes, cast out from other states, countries, why not worlds?”
It wasn’t till page 9 that I cottoned on that this was a novel, possibly science fiction or a thriller. The narrator, it turns out, is Ted Bogard, a handsome young man who is finicky about protocol and etiquette. He deplores the noise of an ongoing construction site, the ubiquity of copy shops (why are they everywhere and what do they copy?), and the violent news blasting constantly from the TV night and day. He lives in a huge rent-controlled apartment, but has installed his girlfriend, Candace, in his studio in the Village, where his mother and Aunt Magda used to run their fortunetelling business.
Ted is not a fortuneteller. The less said about his business the better. But soon he learns that there are aliens in Manhattan. His alien father contacts him via the computer, because he is in the neighborhood. He gives Ted bad news. And what can Ted do about it?
Yet Ted might not be quite the most reliable narrator in the world. Is it possible that he…. No, I cannot give the details.
A comical, entertaining, uneven, unsettling book. Is it a rant, is it a satire, is it SF, is it a thriller?
According to Wkipedia, Smith (1922-2000) was a prolific writer of science fiction and mysteries and a crossword compiler.