When Yates, a cynical consultant who gets paid big money to make bland predictions about the future, is recruited by a sinister organization to help it manipulate world events, he begins to seriously question his chosen profession and life path. Yates is a cynical futurist -a man who gets paid to predict future trends- who begins to question the point of his profession as he gets involved in international controversy and intrigue. Yates makes his living as a futurist who tells wealthy individuals and corporations what they want to hear. As the novel opens, he is dumped by his girlfriend, who leaves him for a grammar school teacher. After giving a speech in South Africa, Yates meets a young call girl named Margaret who is in danger but does not reveal why. Just as Yates considers quitting his lucrative but mostly fraudulent career, he is approached by two men, both named Johnson, from a sinister, unnamed organization who offer him a large amount of money to continue traveling the world and making his predictions. They imply that it would not be a good idea for him to refuse, which is reinforced when he is beaten up by an unknown assailant.
Yates visits his old friend Campbell, who has become a reclusive and wealthy character who lives in a remote section of Greenland. Campbell is just as cynical as Yates in his own way, but he enjoys admiring the icebergs that are visible from his home. Campbell is unable to offer Yates much in the way of advice, so Yates continues his travels to places such as Milan, where he witnesses a terrorist event. After a mysterious caller asks to meet Yates at a cafe, a bomb goes off in the area, making Yates suspect that he was meant to witness this. Continuing his travels to Fiji, Yates meets a wealthy British media magnate, who offends the local natives with a vulgar party where everyone gets drunk. Yates also becomes more involved with Margaret, with whom he spends his free time in Fiji. Yates also receives mysterious emails containing quotes from Nostradamus. He wonders if these are being sent by the group that employs him.
Margaret joins Yates on a nostalgic trip back to his hometown in Pennsylvania, where he continues to be stalked by the two men named Johnson Although the organization that they represent never reveals its name or exact motives, in an email the Johnsons reveal that they are a private corporation that works on behalf of both other companies and governments when it suits them. They have no fixed ideology, but only work for causes that will help them become more powerful. Yates and, he is told, many others like him, are used to further their agenda by witnessing and reporting on certain events (such as the explosion in Milan). The implication is that the group is a kind of secret society that manipulates public events from behind the scenes.
The two Johnsons threaten to harm Margaret as well as Yates if he doesn't continue to cooperate. Yates is then sent to an unstable Middle Eastern country called Bas'ar, where he is almost killed. At this point, he suspects that the group who is paying him sees him as expendable and plans to have him killed. He manages to escape, however, and returns to the United States. Due to the publicity generated from the event in Bas'ar, Yates is now considered a hero. This protects him from harm and allows him to retire from his profession as a futurist. The novel ends with a humorous description of how Yates' life continues in a mostly normal and low key manner.
Best part of story, including ending:
I like the way The Futurist satirizes politics and popular culture, which is really the main point. Yates is smart enough to realize that the cliches he repeats are basically meaningless, yet the media, government and big business thrive on superficial explanations and predictions.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene took place in Fiji, where a wild party was thrown by a group of businessmen. The local islanders were forced to participate, even though they clearly found it offensive. This scene drove home one of the book's main themes, which is how oblivious wealthy people often are towards native cultures.
Opinion about the main character:
I like the fact that Yates is self aware and develops enough integrity that he wants to quit his profession. He is, however, forced to continue by the group that threatens his and Margaret's life if he quits.