The Unknowns

Gabriel RothPublication: June 6th, 2013


Co-published by Waywiser and Picador

"On the left is Maya. Small body, small features, chestnut hair in a shaggy bob, neolibrarian glasses. A subtle smile at the corners of her eyes that says I see through you entirely and find you benign but a bit ridiculous. Girls spend years working on that look without reaching Maya’s level. "

Imagine One Day as retold by Woody Allen – and welcome to the hilarious, neurotic, and peculiarly perceptive world of Gabriel Roth.

Eric has survived his ostracised teens in the school computer basement of the mid-90s and seems to have everything: the dot com millions, the beautiful apartment, the quick mind, and even passable looks. But he has never quite found love. Until, with all the glamorous alliteration of a movie star, Maya Marcom arrives on his horizon.

It’s not easy to pursue the most alluring woman in North America when you’re a misfiring circuit of over-analytical self-doubt and she has a killer line and a perfectly raised eyebrow. But as Eric refines his email technique, his date patter and his capacity to shut up after sex, he finds there’s more to Maya Marcom than meets the eye.

Will our loveable geek be able to conquer his dogged need to discover the whole truth about his lover – or will they continue in bliss and wonder? This is a story about the mysteries of the heart, and the ways in which one fragile human being is harder to really know than enough computer code to make a fortune.

ISBN: 978-1-4472-3556-9 Extent: 240pp Category: Tag:

The Unknowns

The Unknowns is so staggeringly funny and smart that its depths and sorrows, when they came, took my breath away." – Megan Abbott

“Gabriel Roth is a natural. This is a very assured first book – fast, funny, full of snappy dialogue, and never losing its poise even when it’s glancing into the abyss. I think he’s a find.” – Sebastian Faulks

"Gabriel Roth’s first novel is a warmly wry coming-of-age story and a darkly funny-and darkly resonant-satire of one effervescent moment in San Francisco’s abusive relationship with technology. If Peter Thiel had backed a character from Infinite Jest, he would have gone on to look something like Eric Muller. A tender, comic debut from one of the coder-novelists of the future." – Gideon Lewis-Kraus, author of A Sense of Direction

““Gabriel Roth’s The Unknowns is a wise and mature novel, a cool and contemporary one. It announces the arrival of a bright new talent.” – Andrew O’Hagan

“I was thoroughly taken – amazed – by Gabe Roth’s debut novel. He’s the real deal: a writer with lavish narrative gifts, an askew and deeply affecting sense of the world, an eye for images and scenes that linger, that keep enlarging in the mind. The Unknowns is a rare discovery, one of those novels of the moment like Catcher in the Rye that defines a time, a place, an attitude. I could not put it down, and I suspect nobody will. It’s a gem.” – Jay Parini

"Gabriel Roth’s Eric Muller had me from the first obsessive aside, but I soon found myself watching through half-covered eyes as he made a bungle of every goddamn thing. I loved and cringed at every moment." – Ben Shrank, author of Love is a Canoe

The Unknowns is wonderful, a wry, ironic novel about the perils of contemporary romance, where you can collect intimate details about people you’ve never met, but still not know the truth of somebody you want to love." – Scott Turow

"The Unknowns feels at first like a very great and very funny coming-of-age novel, about a high-school loser destined for Internet riches. But then suddenly you realize you’re reading something much more powerful: a beautiful and painful story about the dangers of learning too much-and about how little we can ever really know about other people." – Ben H. Winters, author of The Last Policeman

Reviews of The Unknowns

The Guardian, 28 September 2013
"The nerdy but lustful hero and his comedy of social and sexual angst have been staple subjects for just about every Jewish standup and a fair fraction of the Gentile ones too. However, Gabriel Roth’s version offers an early-21st-century upgrade on the customary yearning geek … [A]n impressive and scarily assured debut – and very funny. – Harry Ritchie

To read the whole of this review, please click the link:Read Full Review

The New Zealand Herald, 13 August 2013
"Geeks are the in thing in literature this year, or so it seems. First there was Graeme Simsion’s highly amusing The Rosie Project, about a romantic hero with undiagnosed Asperger’s syndrome. And now New York writer Gabriel Roth picks up on the trend with his memorable debut, The Unknowns, a sharp, funny and often slightly disturbing insight into the male mind … It’s still fairly unusual to find such upfront fiction about relationships and emotional issues from a bloke’s perspective. This is rarely challenged literary territory that previously belonged to a small cache of writers who include Nick Hornby, David Nicholls and Jonathan Tropper. For my money, Roth is as good as any of them when it comes to angst-ridden male interior monologues and quirky, ironic humour." – Nicky Pellegrino

To read the whole of this review, please click the link:Read Full Review

The Independent, 24 July 2013
"’There are known knowns; there are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns; that is to say, there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns – there are things we do not know we don’t know.’ This, from misunderstood genius Donald Rumsfeld in 2002, preceded the Iraq invasion and decade-long war in the region. In the context of this fine debut novel – traversing the Nineties and our narrator’s suburban school years, and San Francisco c. 2003 – it’s an admission of qualified ignorance." – Gavin James Bower

The Daily Mail, 11 July 2013
“Eric may be a textbook neurotic but Gabriel Roth fearlessly tackles some weighty issues – including false memory syndrome and the Iraq war – in his debut … Roth is a genuinely exciting talent." – Stephanie Cross

The New York Times, 10 July 2013
“If only all social misfits were as stealthily charming as Eric Muller, the nerdy narrator of Gabriel Roth’s sparkling debut novel … Mr Roth’s remarkably funny, tender book is much more than one code-writing kid’s success story … [He] writes in a gently self-mocking, utterly disarming style that gives The Unknowns an unusual type of tension. As Eric describes his way of calculating his path through everyday situations, the reader can both enjoy his acumen and wish that he knew better. This whole book is a testament to Eric’s early, all-too-understandable descriptions of his state of being ‘stretched across the gulf between my life’s twin goals: experiencing uncompromised happiness and not being a loser.’" – Janet Maslin

To read the whole of this review, please click the link:Read Full Review

The Daily Telegraph, 6 July 2013
“Eric Muller, the nerdish lead character of Gabriel Roth’s sparky, neurotic debut novel has become a dotcom millionaire through analysis of … online marketing, and with a laconic honesty spends his life judging people by their consumer habits and cultural references … It’s 2002 in San Francicisco and everyone is jittery about the impending war in Iraq. The uncertainty America faces is paralleled in Eric’s own mind as he heads into the unknown, using his data analysis skills to solve the past of Maya, a girl he is in love with … Eric could be a creep but Rotrh has imbued him with such a hefty amount of humorous self-doubt that you can’t help but root for him … The Unknowns is a confident novel that manages to be both funny and sad. Buy it … – Ben Lawrence

To read the whole of this review, please click the link:Read Full Review

Spencer Daily Reporter, 5 July 2013
"I loved the stream-of-consciousness perspective Roth takes in this book. We see everything through Eric’s eyes, and we hear everything running through his head. He approaches women the same way he approaches a new program he will code. As a teenager, he listed every girl in his school and charted their interactions: who they hung out with, what they did, his interactions with them, etc. While incredibly smart and full of fast-paced, witty dialogue, I feel Roth could have gone deeper into the characters. He tipped on the edge of their misguided actions without actually diving in and revealing the real grittiness that would make them unforgettable. "The Unknowns" is a good book, erring just shy of great, and I see Roth as an author to watch in the next years. – Kate Padilla

The West Australian, 25 June 2013
“This is a book about watching a nerd grow up, break his own heart, try to fathom and feel his way through the unknowns – the rights and wrongs of what and what not to do with the people you love. In real life, you cannot code or prepare for the unknowns and each individual comes with their own set of unknowns. Reading The Unknowns is like watching a train wreck happen but, at the end of it, you come away knowing Eric is wiser now, heartbreak and all, and you want him to get what he wants and hope depression does not set in. That Roth is able to set up the characters, break them into pieces over their own folly and then have them jaggedly put back together for your delectation and have you still like them tells you how talented a writer he is. Roth is honest – this is what life is like. People who don’t know any better make the worst mistakes despite caring a great deal and often trying very hard in the first place not to mess up everything. There may be no rules or code for the unknowns in life but there is a book about them. Read it now." – Marisa Wikramanayake

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review
“A geek turned dot-com millionaire tries to hack the irrational pathways of love in Roth’s memorable debut. For high school computer nerd Eric Muller, discovering the opposite sex is a ‘revelation.’ Determined to apply the scientific method to landing a girl, he begins ‘gathering data’ on the opposite sex, only to have his embarrassing research exposed. After college, however, a Silicon Valley windfall gives Eric enough confidence and money to help even a geek get a girl into bed. But when Eric meets Maya, a reporter, real intimacy is complicated by Eric’s attempts to ‘solve’ her unresolved past, putting his first real relationship at risk. This story is set in 2002, against the backdrop of the pending invasion of Iraq, with Americans at odds over an unknowable future, a subtle and illuminating parallel that underscores Eric’s own uncertainty. Roth presents two narrative threads in alternating chapters and is equally adept at inhabiting both adolescent Eric and the smoother adult he becomes. Wry observational humor and captivating internal monologues make this promising new voice reminiscent of Ben Lerner and Joshua Ferris."

"Goodreads" reviews – please click the link: Read Full Review

Gabriel Roth talks about The Unknowns for ABC Radio National’s Books & Arts Daily

To hear Gabriel Roth interviewed by Rhiannon Brown, please click the link:Listen to Interview