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Tomorrow, Monty Brogan is going to prison. But that’s tomorrow. In David Benioff’s first novel, The 25th Hour, Brogan grapples with the question of what to do today. A cocksure coke dealer with a Corvette and a pit bull, Brogan has been busted for selling drugs and sentenced to seven years in prison, his dad’s bar up for bail so he can’t skip town. Brogan’s last day of liberation begins as he walks his dog along the East River. And as dawn breaks over New York City, the sun sheds light on Brogan’s surroundings, allowing him to ponder them one last time. The 25th Hour is full of such moments, when mundane becomes noteworthy and the universe becomes ripe for reflection. Throughout, Brogan attempts to deny the potency of these events—lying in bed after making love to his girlfriend, eating dinner with his dad, giving his dog to his best friend—but eventually the sum of his loss becomes overwhelming. Benioff sculpts a masterful plot, with each chapter piling more weight on top of Brogan’s already rickety sense of reality. And though there are times when the author botches the ever-important details (a group of teenagers playing pickup basketball—outside, at dawn, in January), Benioff succeeds in crafting a captivating story that illuminates the pitfalls of wayward ambition and the nuances of despair. Benioff appears at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 6, at Olsson’s Books and Records, 1200 F St. NW. Free. (202) 347-3686. (Felix Gillette)