The Program


318 pages
ISBN 0-679-31305-2
DDC C813'.54




Reviewed by Tami Oliphant

Tami Oliphant is a Ph.D. candidate in Library and Information Studies at the University of Western Ontario.


While The Program is Hal Niedzviecki’s third novel, readers may be
more familiar with the author based on his work at Broken Pencil
magazine (which he co-founded and edited for seven years) or his
cultural commentary in books like We Want Some Too.

The Program is a disturbing look at the fragmentary, imperfect nature
of memory. The book revolves around the mysterious events that transpire
one night when Maury, an advertising guru, asks his messed-up brother
Cal to babysit Danny, Maury’s boy. No one but Danny and Cal know what
happened the night that Danny is locked in the closet. Danny is
incapable of revealing what happened and instead acts out in disturbing
ways. And Cal is nowhere to be found. Maury sets out to find his brother
and piece together the events of that fateful night.

Like the characters and their memories, Niedzviecki’s prose is terse,
spare, and fragmented. Some moments—a harrowing memory involving a
Zionist summer camp, for example—are quite brilliant. The author loses
his way somewhat when Danny, in response to everyone who wants him to be
“normal” again, develops the titular program so he can lose himself
in cyberspace and resolve the problems plaguing his family. While the
concept is an ingenious one, this section of the book doesn’t ring as

The Program is unsettling, and none of the characters are particularly
likeable. At the same time, the novel is original in its vision and
succeeds at examining contemporary life.


Niedzviecki, Hal., “The Program,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 22, 2024,