Reward System: Stories (Hardcover)
“Reward System is an exhilarating and beautiful book by an extraordinarily gifted writer. Reading these stories, I found myself thinking newly and differently about contemporary life.”
—Sally Rooney, author of Beautiful World, Where Are You
Julia has landed a fresh start—at a “pan-European” restaurant.
“Imagine that,” says her mother.
Nick is flirting with sobriety and nobody else. Did you know adults his age are now more likely to live with their parents than with a romantic partner?
Life should have started to take shape by now—but instead we’re trying on new versions of ourselves, swiping left and right, searching for a convincing answer to that question: “What do you do?”
Jem Calder’s Reward System is a set of ultra-contemporary and electrifyingly fresh fictions about work, relationships, and the strange loop of technology and the self. They are about a generation on the cusp: the story of two people enmeshed in Zooms and lockdowns, loneliness and love, devices and desires. Hyperaware but also deeply confused about who they are, Julia and Nick reveal the way we live now in a startling new light.
About the Author
Jem Calder was born in Cambridge, and lives and works in London. His first two completed stories were published in The Stinging Fly and Granta.
"Calder is a superb writer, by turns funny, graceful, acidly cynical, lyrical—and always verbally dexterous and inventive. He can make the boredom of office life fascinating . . . he can make a desolate house party enlivening . . . and his descriptions of loneliness and dissatisfaction, as in virtually all these stories, leave the reader feeling understood—or, as his characters would say, seen . . . [Calder] write[s] simply and beautifully, with a keen eye for the natural world and human behaviour." —Matt Rowland Hill, The Guardian
“Calder debuts with a sharp collection . . . the choice to stretch out the narrative across several stories . . . leaves room for Calder’s insightful observations on the nature of romance and friendship in the age of right swipes and perfectly curated Instagram grids. There’s plenty to dig into.” —Publishers Weekly
“Jem Calder is my favorite new writer, or my new favorite writer, I can’t decide which, and his book Reward System is the best debut by a British fiction writer in years. If you’ve been waiting for someone to close the gap on social distancing, to capture the furtive problems of social media, to make you laugh at your own alienation, to wrap your mind around the narcissism of small differences, then Calder is your new best friend and his debut collection is the must-read book of the year.” —Andrew O’Hagan, author of Mayflies
“Reward System is an exhilarating and beautiful book by an extraordinarily gifted writer. Reading these stories, I found myself thinking newly and differently about contemporary life.” —Sally Rooney, author of Beautiful World, Where Are You
"The stories in Reward System are intelligent, cool and sharp. Jem Calder is a real find." —Nicole Flattery, author of Show Them A Good Time