Joe Eliseon’s novel The Seamless Web: A Legal Comedy, is fun to read, filled with memorable characters, and rather longer than it has to be, suffering under the weight of a subplot that doesn’t mesh with the main story. Eliseon’s knowledge of the subject matter makes this a believable tale despite its absurdity, and he doesn’t shy away from the implications of the “legapocalypse” the events of the story might create.
The protagonist, Pete Roselli, is in his own way a cipher, an empty figure that things happen to. After a freak accident enables him to digitally create case law and hence establish legal precedent, he only uses this newfound skill as a means of surviving day-to-day at the cutthroat Park Avenue legal firm where he works. A passive dreamer rather than a go-getter, he’s more comfortable refusing to act than seizing opportunity, which makes him somewhat frustrating; he is the near-literal definition of hapless.
The mechanism through which Pete is able to cheat the legal system requires the novel to be set in the 1980’s, which dates it somewhat and leaves the reader without much to hang onto; so much of the story takes place in offices, courtrooms, and private clubs that it leaves out a sense of the period.
Despite that, the bizarre characters you meet along the way more than make up for the novel’s shortcomings and make the fundamentally weak, pushover character of Peter seem rock-solid in comparison. From Keneally the crazy Vietnam veteran attorney to fortune cookie vendor Tommy Lao to Pete’s boss, the eternally irascible Jack Berman, they’re all hysterically funny and unforgettable.
Even if legal comedies aren’t your thing (they weren’t before I read this book), The Seamless Web is definitely worth your time.