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Big If
MARK COSTELLO

Big If by Mark Costello
35 reviews (2002) (368p)
National Book Award Finalist

Visit this book's Amazon.com page >>


Book Description
The Secret Service agents guarding the vice president steel their nerves to a multitude of dangers every day. When he runs for the top spot on the Democratic ticket, however, their personal lives may just be the biggest obstacle to keeping him safe.
Wry, muscular Vi Asplund is the daughter of an atheist insurance adjuster who took the young Vi and her brother, Jens, to the grisly accident scenes he covered. This tolerance for the macabre follows Vi into her career as an agent, and into Jens's development as the software designer for a gorey video game. Chief-of-detail Gretchen Williams fights to keep the team in order, while Agent Tashmo, a veteran presidential guard, reflects on the glory days of the Reagan administration.
As the primary approaches, these intense men and women balance their own lives with that of the vice president. An astounding novel of survival and absurdity, Big If casts a sharp eye on America today.


Amazon.com Review
Substantial insider detail and highly developed, creatively drawn characters help make Mark Costello's Big If a highly memorable work. Struggling to find her place in the Secret Service, Vi Asplund has accepted the high-stress position of guarding the vice president during his New Hampshire primary run. Her brother Jens, co-creator of the realistically brutal computer game Big If, can cash in his lucrative stock options soon if his increasingly troubled conscience and mental imbalance don't overwhelm him first. Both are reeling from the death of their father Walter, a respected insurance-adjusting atheist. Vi's boss Gretchen, a single mom, is trying to maintain unity among her team as well as a connection to her troubled son. Her diverse crew includes Tashmo, a veteran agent with an overactive libido, and Lloyd Felker, a revered protection theorist and creator of The Dome, the Service-implemented area of safety.

While Jens reluctantly bows to pressure from his superiors to create human-like monsters for Big If, Felker's mysterious disappearance heightens apprehensions among the team, who are increasingly uncertain about their ability to protect the vice president against a dense and volatile public. Costello offers a remarkable level of accessible and fascinating governmental information, and he's rendered his cast with inventive depth, such as Tashmo's fixation on Ronald Reagan and the woman on the Land O'Lakes logo, or Walter's habit of crossing out the word "God" on every dollar bill. Big If is a rare novel: a complex examination of conflicting American ideals that's also accessible, fun, and totally worthwhile. --Ross Doll


Mark Costello Award Stats
Major Prize* Nominations 1  
Unique Books Nominated for a Major Prize* 1  
Pulitzer Prize Wins 0  
Pulitzer Prize Nominations 0  
National Book Critics Circle Award Wins 0  
National Book Critics Circle Award Nominations 0  
National Book Award Wins 0  
National Book Award Nominations 1 Big If ·  
Man Booker Prize Wins 0  
Man Booker Prize Nominations 0  
PEN/Faulkner Award Wins 0  
PEN/Faulkner Award Nominations 0  

*Major Prize = Pulitzer Prize, National Book Critics Circle Award, National Book Award, Man Booker Prize, and PEN/Faulkner Award

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