Skip to main content

Obvious in Hindsight - Bradley Tusk ***(*)

The premise of this novel is excellent - it's a cross between House of Cards and The Circle. A tech company is attempting to get its flying cars off the ground (both literally and metaphorically). The company's erratic CEO has brought in a political lobbying company, because it's no easy job to get permission for flying cars in the skies of a city (their initial targets are New York, Los Angeles and Austin). Meanwhile it's also no easy job to get the car to fly safely at all.

Bradley Tusk - who has been both a political operator and a venture capitalist, so has an ideal background - brings to the fore the two people at the top of the lobbyists - the ruthless Nick and his number two, Lisa (arguably the main protagonist), Susan the CEO, and her chief engineer, Yevgeny. They join a large cast of characters from FBI agents to corrupt city mayors and union bosses. Tusk also gives a very cynical (but probably accurate) picture of the totally self-serving nature of US politics.

It's a great storyline, even if it does verge more into Tom Sharpe territory later on (more on that in a moment). And I enjoyed reading it. I'd definitely give it four stars for the ideas. But it could have been better. Tusk's writing style isn't particularly engaging. We get too many characters thrown at us, without the space  to develop (or even, occasionally, to keep track of who is who). And the dramatic tension isn't particularly well handled. It's not really a page turner. 

In case you aren't familiar with Tom Sharpe, he was a British satirical novelist who particularly took on academia (both new universities and Cambridge), using sledgehammer-unsubtle farcical situations. What I really wanted Obvious in Hindsight to be (what is that title about?) was a sizzling political thriller, like House of Cards, with the added fun of the dodgy goings on of the tech billionaires (hence my reference to The Circle). And there are bits where this happens. But, presumably in an attempt to add humour, we also get deeply farcical elements, such as FBI agents (one of whom is obsessed with disgusting sounding eating contests) operating from a kosher Mexican Korean food truck - and then there is the public test of the flying car where the passenger is a steer (a bullock in English English) that also happens to be the mascot of a college football team. What could possibly go wrong?

It was so close to being a really good book that I genuinely do recommend giving it a go - but it should have had more of an editorial steer (not a bullock). 

See all of Brian's online articles or subscribe to a weekly digest for free here
You can buy Obvious in Hindsight from and

Using these links earns us commission at no cost to you


Popular posts from this blog

Why I hate opera

If I'm honest, the title of this post is an exaggeration to make a point. I don't really hate opera. There are a couple of operas - notably Monteverdi's Incoranazione di Poppea and Purcell's Dido & Aeneas - that I quite like. But what I do find truly sickening is the reverence with which opera is treated, as if it were some particularly great art form. Nowhere was this more obvious than in ITV's recent gut-wrenchingly awful series Pop Star to Opera Star , where the likes of Alan Tichmarsh treated the real opera singers as if they were fragile pieces on Antiques Roadshow, and the music as if it were a gift of the gods. In my opinion - and I know not everyone agrees - opera is: Mediocre music Melodramatic plots Amateurishly hammy acting A forced and unpleasant singing style Ridiculously over-supported by public funds I won't even bother to go into any detail on the plots and the acting - this is just self-evident. But the other aspects need some ex

Is 5x3 the same as 3x5?

The Internet has gone mildly bonkers over a child in America who was marked down in a test because when asked to work out 5x3 by repeated addition he/she used 5+5+5 instead of 3+3+3+3+3. Those who support the teacher say that 5x3 means 'five lots of 3' where the complainants say that 'times' is commutative (reversible) so the distinction is meaningless as 5x3 and 3x5 are indistinguishable. It's certainly true that not all mathematical operations are commutative. I think we are all comfortable that 5-3 is not the same as 3-5.  However. This not true of multiplication (of numbers). And so if there is to be any distinction, it has to be in the use of English to interpret the 'x' sign. Unfortunately, even here there is no logical way of coming up with a definitive answer. I suspect most primary school teachers would expands 'times' as 'lots of' as mentioned above. So we get 5 x 3 as '5 lots of 3'. Unfortunately that only wor

Which idiot came up with percentage-based gradient signs

Rant warning: the contents of this post could sound like something produced by UKIP. I wish to make it clear that I do not in any way support or endorse that political party. In fact it gives me the creeps. Once upon a time, the signs for a steep hill on British roads displayed the gradient in a simple, easy-to-understand form. If the hill went up, say, one yard for every three yards forward it said '1 in 3'. Then some bureaucrat came along and decided that it would be a good idea to state the slope as a percentage. So now the sign for (say) a 1 in 10 slope says 10% (I think). That 'I think' is because the percentage-based slope is so unnatural. There are two ways we conventionally measure slopes. Either on X/Y coordiates (as in 1 in 4) or using degrees - say at a 15° angle. We don't measure them in percentages. It's easy to visualize a 1 in 3 slope, or a 30 degree angle. Much less obvious what a 33.333 recurring percent slope is. And what's a 100% slope