In order, this book will appeal to:
1. People who are no longer in NYC, and who miss it
2. People who are in NYC
3. People with some passing familiarity of NYC from having visited/lived in NJ growing up
While it was pointed out to me that this compromises millions upon millions of people, it is also true that I, personally, find it difficult to imagine the vast majority of people (i.e. those who fall into #4, Everyone else, including one time tourists, anyone who considers the cities as taking up too much space in the national discourse, etc etc (view spoiler)) will find this book as appealing. It is the definition of an inside joke, except they’re not joking most of the time. Inside references?
An example: the characters are required to come up with “constructs,” or action-based embodiments of behaviors quintessential to their specific boroughs. An umbrella in the hands of Manhattan can be used as a weapon two ways: one, you swing it and hit something. This is not a construct. Two, you carry it and walk straight into whatever you are trying to hurt, without swerving, because it is the height of Manhattan-ness to walk with your umbrella on the sidewalk without once moving it out of the way to avoid hitting someone. The second is the construct, the action (walk into the monster with firm purpose) that embodies the behavior (Manhattanites don’t move their umbrellas out of the way to be kind) which becomes the weapon.
I mean, is that not a deep cut? The conceit is explained in the book–in exactly those words, non-allegorically–but does it hit home for anyone other than someone who has lived in Manhattan and therefore had to walk in the rain with an umbrella (i.e. you must also be here long enough to be walking in the rain/commuting?, because otherwise you’d either avoid coming to Manhattan from Brooklyn if you knew it was going to rain, or you’d take a cab because you’re just visiting, or you’d take a circuitous route via public transport to avoid having to be out in the rain). The only way for it to be even less accessible is if the umbrella used wasn’t a large golf umbrella but one of those rickety $5 ones from the stands that pop up like mushrooms whenever it seems like it’s going to rain.
So of course, this book sang to me, group #1, Hi my name is wicherwill and I am a former resident of NYC (Hi, wicherwill) It has been almost a year and a half since I lived there.
Lost one star, mathematically, because 1) it did take me 20% of the book to figure out what on earth was going on, and I would have given up on the book if it hadn’t been recommended to me. And 2) for being so metaphorical and allegorical in the first bit, it’s quite a tell/instead of show book towards the end. The evil is sometimes too cartoonishly evil, the “constructs” get a bit too on the nose…for me.