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Men in Space

3.62  ·  Rating Details ·  370 Ratings  ·  42 Reviews
The first novel written by Booker finalist Tom McCarthy—acclaimed author of Remainder and CMen in Space is set in a Central Europe rapidly fragmenting after the fall of communism. It follows an oddball cast—dissolute bohemians, political refugees, a football referee, a disorientated police agent, and a stranded astronaut—as they chase a stolen painting from Sofia to Pragu ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published February 7th 2012 by Vintage (first published September 27th 2007)
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Jun 21, 2012 Drew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is really good, especially for a first novel. McCarthy exerts a whole lot of control over both his characters and his prose, which isn't always a great thing, but works well here. One of the main characters spends a portion of the book forging a painting, and at one point McCarthy lists all the things he needs in order to do it: whiting powder, rabbit-skin glue, methylated spirits, cotton wool, ketone-resin crystals, white spirit, beeswax, jelly, wire wool, sandpaper, carbon paper, purified ...more
Aug 30, 2012 Daniel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Lit major in me wants to give McCarthy's MEN IN SPACE five stars for its detailed symbolism, its highly intricate analogies, and its artistic complexity. The lover of stories in me, however, wants to give it two stars for its almost aggressively dense plotting, its alienating cartography, and its oh-so-palpable disdain for anything even approaching entertainment. Let's call it an even 3.5 and round up.

This is the third McCarthy book I've read. As a more overt puzzle novel, [[ASIN:0307388212
Nick Sweeney
Oct 11, 2011 Nick Sweeney rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved Tom McCarthy's Remainder, and his Tintin and the Secret of Literature, so I was looking forward to this, and wasn't disappointed. It's an often disjointed story set in Prague, featuring British and American expats, a rather self-conscious group of Czech artists and (literal) Bohemians, and local and Bulgarian gangsters. A stolen icon forms the focus for this disparate group of people. So far so thriller-ish, from my description here, but Tom McCarthy raises his work above genre; he shows ...more
Brent Hayward
Aug 25, 2010 Brent Hayward rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Expat artists partying in Prague, on the verge of Czechoslovakia splitting in two, get in over their heads when one of them is asked to reproduce a strange painting. But the book is about forgery and crime as much as Gaddis' The Recognitions was: the writing is dense and detailed and unfolds non-linearly. There are letters, notebook excerpts from a cop going mad, geographical jumps, loose ends, debauchery aplenty. In short, all the ingredients I look for in fiction! (Plus, the nice-looking hardc ...more
A bit of disappointment after the brilliant "Remainder" by the same author. Apparently, he wrote this book long before "The Remainder", while living in Czech Republic in the early 1990s. Detective story framed against the fall of communism - it would have been a hit back then, in the sagging 90's. Today it feels out-of-time, certainly not timeless.
Sep 09, 2015 Bandit rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I chose this one based on McCarthy's Remainder, which I really enjoyed, odd as it was. Had I read Men in Space first, I don't think I'd want to explore any more books by the author. Mind you, McCarthy's literary talent isn't in question here, he can write and well, but he chooses to forgo convention in favor of...the heavily stylized, studiedly flat, disjointed narratives of it, the all but ignored basic plot (which has something to do with a copying and redistribution of a stolen icon and the E ...more
Didn't finish
Chip Howell
Oct 19, 2016 Chip Howell rated it really liked it
They say you can't judge a book by its cover and that's true, but I have to admit that I was immediately grabbed by the cover of the Vintage Books 2012 edition. That bleak European-looking image reminded me of stuff I grew familiar with. That the novel takes place in Prague (for a significant portion of the action) simply pulled me in farther. I was surprised and not disappointed though there are aspects of the novel that rubbed me the wrong way.

The novel, as its title implies, is about a group
May 24, 2012 Drew rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Tom McCarthy's later novel Remainder is one of the best the I have read in very many years (here's my review). This book, published in the wake of Remainder's success, is perhaps not quite so spectacular, but it is nonetheless very good indeed: a metafictional meditation on art, politics and narratives that manages to avoid the kind of arid playfulness that makes writers like John Barth or Robert Coover so tiring.
The book opens in Prague, and from the beginning we are thrown into a multi-voiced
Dec 16, 2010 Insidebooks rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Recently when you think of Tom McCarthy you think of 'C' and this also sparks off another c for clever. Not just for the plot, which weaves together to create a story that pulls together several characters against the backdrop of a fragmented Eastern Europe.

Describing the story makes it sound extremely simple but in reality its a clot more complex than just a case of criminals asking an art dealer to copy a stolen painting so they can sell it off.

As an astronaut trapped in space while the former
Jan 09, 2015 Daryl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I didn't have high hopes for my response to this one when I first started, as I was immediately lost in a spaghetti of names I couldn't begin to pronounce or remember. But the book pretty quickly captured my attention, and I found it fascinating to read. It's not your standard linear or tidy narrative, but that tends to get bonus points from me. The book taught me things about art (like, process) and invited me to think about original vs. copied art, which is always fun. I could tell there was s ...more
Cecil Paddywagon
Sep 19, 2016 Cecil Paddywagon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
McCarthy is unquestionably a genius. The problem is he is the type of genius who speaks too fast for other people to listen. He's so filled with knowledge and details and facts and apocrypha and anecdotes and jokes and stories within stories that it can make your head spin. But that's not so much McCarthy's problem as it is *my* problem.

If the disjointed narratives and voices in this book, I especially loved the segments about the art world, and, in particular, the meticulously researched sectio
Anne Charnock
Nov 20, 2012 Anne Charnock rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: art-in-novels
Set in Prague and Amsterdam, Men in Space emerged from a series of disjointed semi-autobiographical sketches according to Tom McCarthy. He brought them together in a philosophical story revolving around a stolen icon. Initially it’s hard going – lots of characters and unpronounceable place names. But stick with it. McCarthy leads us into a thriller involving a group of bohemian artists, Bulgarian gangsters and the Czech secret police. The icon is first described in the novel by a state spook who ...more
May 12, 2016 dbirdan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
You can tell this was McCarthy's first.
This does not mean it's bad, but you can tell it's his first.
It's kind of Hergé-y/Nabokov-y/Pynchon-y etc etc and less "Tom McCarthy" than other works.
But it's damn good regardless.

Narrative is brilliantly paced, many twists, many turns.
Language is as gorgeous as ever, as flowing as ever.
Ideas of network culture; radio tech stuff (think 'C'); originality/imitation, art/life, fact/fiction, event/recurrence; trauma; etc, are all there.
I went in to this sad t
Jul 27, 2012 Ivan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Prague-lit fans
(review to be read in the voice of Stefan from SNL) Looking for a nice summer read? This book has everything. It has dodgy underworld characters in tourist spots; multiple narrative perspectives using letters, documents and surveillance reports from the secret police; ecphrasis, or the detailed description of a work of art (c.f. the Shield of Achilles) taking on a life of its own; drug-fueled parties; sexual biting; the end of a nation; foreigners avoiding other foreigners, instead preferring th ...more
Sam Gilbert
Nov 07, 2013 Sam Gilbert rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
McCarthy lurches from meditations on states of being seldom acknowledged to Nancy Drew-style plot devices, all the while managing a large and cosmopolitan cast of characters. I enjoyed this book quite a lot, but after I'd read it I wondered how much better it would have been if McCarthy was not in the thrall of the sophomoric need to be clever. His themes connect, but they seldom add up to much more than their constituent bits, and too often his books feel like homages to trendy philosphy rather ...more
Apr 05, 2012 Ian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quite brilliant, thought it wasn't until the very end that I got how all of the pieces fit (or in most cases, didn't fit) together. There are so many missed connections, misinterpreted meanings, and static-filled communications, and I really enjoyed the progression of the undercover surveillance officer's story (especially considering McCarthy's continued obsession with static and tinnitus in "C"). Tom McCarthy remains one my favorite contemporary novelists. Now, to track down his book about Tin ...more
Jun 14, 2014 Marc rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Two mentions. First, this is more of a three and half rating than a three rating but closer to three than four, hence the rating. Second, I am a fan of McCarthy. There is an ease to McCarthy's writing, like smooth jazz. Unlike his other works it lacked both poetry and ingenuity. This is a collection of stories tied together with some cohesion, but little. The author admits to such at the end. In any event, I enjoyed the book. I wanted more, more writing, more depth. But, I'll take what I can get ...more
Tom Hall
Aug 29, 2008 Tom Hall rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
very good so far, intriguing, the characters are all very well drawn if not exactly sympathetic. I've actually been to Prague where this is set but a long time after the breaking up of Czechoslovakia and it was only for a weekend so I didn't really get involved in the vibrant arts scene around which the plot revolves. Actually I was on a stag weekend and spent most of my time in brothels and strip clubs, who knew there was so much more going on? I was similarly disappointed when I visited Paris ...more
What do I mark the books I started but didn't finish? They're not really "read" but I'm not still reading them either... *sigh*

I really don't have any complaints about this one because I had no expectations. I grabbed it off of a library shelf at random because I didn't have time to do anything else and in my opinion even a terrible book is better than no book at all. Men In Space was in so many ways not my thing at all, but a lot of other people seem to love Tom McCarthy so I'm probably just no
Sep 05, 2014 Katie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not the normal kind of book I would read. This was one of my summer experiments where I read the blurb, found I was intrigued and bought it even if i'd never read anything by the author or in the genre before.

This book is definitely worth reading. McCarthy's skillfully weaves this structure of several different lives into one plotline following the possession and transportation of a famous piece of holy artwork. The time in which the story is set adds to the fragmentary nature and style of the n
Feb 16, 2012 Worth rated it liked it
Engaging themes (ellipses, counterfeit counterfeited art, disjointedness, endless play on the meanings of *space*), compelling geography/spaces (Prague), undeniable genius of an author; even an illuminating, parasitic afterward by S. Critchley; but can't say that I was as riveted by this one as much as I was by *Remainder* and *C.* Nevertheless, McCarthy's right there with David Mitchell amidst the finest of contemporary British novelists (IMHO).
Dec 29, 2015 Sara rated it liked it
Shelves: philosophy-crit
I picked this up because Simon Critchley wrote the afterward. I'd never heard of the author. I guess I wish I'd read the afterward first. I loved the whole concept of the painting. I was most drawn in when the book was provoking thought about art and authenticity. Towards the end though I guess it fizzled for me a bit. I saw where it said McCarthy has written a book of crit. I will definitely look into that and read it. The setting was well wrought and intriguing.
Sep 06, 2011 Paul rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
McCarthy really is a good writer. This is my second of his books, having enjoyed Remainder. Men In Space centres on a group of people in Central Europe. Its primary theme is that of dislocation I think but what makes Men In Space really worthwhile for me is the fact that I already know, (after one reading) that if I was to start the book again immediately, I would pick up on a lot of things I missed the first time around.
writing was good, the time period and location was interesting but for some reason, just didn't grab me.

setting it aside, posting it on bookswap, so that the fates will have their ways… if i get to return to it, so be it. if not, it is released into the ether to someone who wants it. and all is good.

… well that was fast. someone requested it already.... less than an hour...
Jun 08, 2012 David rated it liked it
The flurry of characters, generally without identifying psychological or physical characteristics, is disorienting. More MacGuffins than you can shake a stick at. McCarthy's characters, like many of us, are enthralled by the intricacies of Czech grammar.

In this edition, a very helpful afterword by Simon Critchley explains a little about what McCarthy is after.
Jan 08, 2013 Scott rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This was a much more complicated book than I expected. It took me about 100 pages to appreciate what McCarthy was doing with the characters and plot. This is definitely a flat book, with not much character depth or plot, but rather a book involved deep into patterns, analogies and dissolution.
Jun 12, 2013 Tuck rated it really liked it
author's first novel, takes place in the high dungeon of cold war. you can sort of tell from this what mccarthy has in mind for his next novels, except both this and those are completely mind blowing and one never knows WHAT tom mccarthy might do "next".
Sep 21, 2014 david added it
elliptical indeed. seeds of later works are sown throughout. bogged down in the middle half, not as subtle as C or as revelatory as Remainder, but finished spectacularly. confirms his spot in my list of best living authors.
Dec 12, 2015 Andy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My third reading of this as I now systematically and concentratedly re-read McCarthy's oeuvre for a literary criticism monograph on which I'm working. Amazing--his novels absorb me and then haunt me until I get re-absorbed again...
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Tom McCarthy — “English fiction’s new laureate of disappointment” (Time Out, September 2007) — is a writer and artist. He was born in 1969 and lives in a tower-block in London. Tom grew up in Greenwich, south London, and studied English at New College, Oxford. After a couple of years in Prague in the early 1990s, he lived in Amsterdam as literary editor of the local Time Out, and later worked in B ...more
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