Picks and Pans Review: As Francesca
By day, Elaine Botch is a corporate minx, a number-crunching go-getter who has worked her way up from budgeting to a leadership spot on the associate track. By night she tunes out the world, logs on as "Francesca," and turns sex slave to "Inez," her tough-talking Internet dominatrix. The more Elaine is virtually degraded, the perkier she is at the office, where she seems to have a promotion all tied up. Then she mistakenly logs on as her true self. When Inez promptly vanishes, Elaine realizes her mistress/master is someone who knows her. Is it her gay colleague Roberto? Or perhaps one of her gal-pals Vera, Jean or Kay?
Baer, the executive editor of the online network Hotwired, writes with a certain raw briskness. But like that earlier exercise in technosex, Nicholson Baker's Vox, her sexcapade is flat. Details are left blank (where Elaine lives, what her company does) to mimic the anonymity of cyberspace, but the book mostly comes off as vague—especially on the question of why onscreen debasement gets Elaine so pixilated. When she finally solves her mystery, the reader doesn't much care. (Broadway, $29)