Short review: Mr. Fforde, speaking (typing?) as an archaeologist, you had me at Munsell. Four and a half stars to you, sir!
Good bit longer review foll...moreShort review: Mr. Fforde, speaking (typing?) as an archaeologist, you had me at Munsell. Four and a half stars to you, sir!
Good bit longer review follows: Not to be confused with that other title involving the words "...Shades of Grey," Jasper Fforde's Shades of Grey is a fun-loving romp through a not-so-fun world in which one's status, profession, prospects and entire future is defined according to his/her ability to discern certain parts of the color spectrum and/or ability to negotiate an "up spectrum" marriage. This dystopian world, following centuries upon the Something that Happened, is an intriguing take on an almost Orwellianly-dark world of corruption, government-fed lies, intrigue, and color-tinged inequity. There are just enough glimmers of resistance, mockery, irony, and hilarious mis-stating of titles and/or content of famous works of art (esp. literature and paintings) to make this dark, dark, world bearable. As always, Fforde is a master of world-building and characterization. What is most effective here, however, is the fact that the story is kept all in one timeline (unlike, say, the Tuesday Next series--which can get a bit frenetic, to say the least), rendering it much more comprehensible.
The story opens as our protagonist Eddie Russet and his father leave the security of home to enter East Carmine in the Outer Fringes, the Senior Russet to serve as substitute swatchman (a sort of color-based healer) and his son to earn some Humility points while working off a Collective-issued punishment by undertaking a chair census. The two are quickly embroiled in a series of events well beyond their ken, and we lucky readers have the good fortune of tagging along for the ride. In short order we discover that not all is as it seems in the tidy world of the Colortocracy, and the "vacationing" swatchman Mr. Russet is replacing may well have succumbed to The Murder. How to prove all this while simultaneously fulfilling their civil obligations, dodging the attentions of the haughty deMauve girl, not getting killed by the intriguing if angry Jane Grey, consorting to take the Ishihara (color test that seals one's fate) early so as to possibly outstep a rival suitor, keep friends (if not oneself) from being sent to Reboot, while sorting out the pernicious matter of queuing efficiency and a host of other challenges involving Riffraff, carnivorous plants, attack swans and other aggressive megafauna, the Spoon Shortage, and related issues proves a highly engaging way to spend an evening or two.
Published in 2009, Shades of Grey is the first in a trilogy, whose other titles are presented in the book's endpapers. I can't wait to see the rest, and am happy to await their well-considered arrival. Take your time, Mr. Ford, as I think you're really on to something here. (less)
I'm having a tough time coming up with a ranking in stars that will make sense, so am just going to need to rely on words to try to encapsulate my tho...moreI'm having a tough time coming up with a ranking in stars that will make sense, so am just going to need to rely on words to try to encapsulate my thoughts about this work. This is a very well written book. It touches upon a number of important themes, most notably: aging and the loss of independence, race, class, nostalgia, parent-offspring conflicts, dissatisfaction with one's lot in life, acceptance, fear of dying and nostalgia to name just a few. It's also depressing as hell. Now I love Faulkner, Joyce, and a host of other writers whose work could sometimes be characterized as depressing--so why do I enjoy their works so much and so didn't care for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, originally published as These Foolish Things? I'm going to come attribute it to two things. First, in my estimation, the characters in the book felt as stereotyped as the versions/visions/misperceptions of India and the cultural Other that these aging Brits held. In that regard, it didn't feel so much like layered irony as it felt futile. Second, most of the Brits were irredeemably ethnocentric and/or smug--to such an extent that I had a very hard time caring about any of them. Another significant drawback was my pervading impression that the parents in this work believe they had children nearly exclusively so that they would have someone to care for them in their waning years. This notion was as absolutely suffocating as it was illogical. Sure, looking back, those with successful offspring might reflect smugly on the fact that they have fierce advocates to care for/about them in their twilight years; however, I sincerely doubt that these young marrieds plotted their future lives together so as to have children to wisely invest their money, see to the landscaping, tote them to assorted doctors' offices, etc. further down the line. What bunk!
The characters in this story, each of whom finds themselves at the somewhat down at the heels Marigold Hotel in Bangalore, suffer as much--albeit in a less material fashion--as the poor who surround their little "patch of England" in the midst of India's equivalent to Silicon Valley. While certain characters survive the span of the novel, and others perish along the way, I walk away from the novel with an overwhelming feeling of: meh.
I must admit to being mystified by the popularity of the movie bearing this title. After reading the book I am left wondering: Who would pay to watch this? I must suppose that the film deviates significantly from the book. That said, given that the book was originally published under a different title, it seems curious at best (and downright opportunistic and misleading at worst) to have rereleased the work under the movie's title--esp. if the movie were a prettied up and heavily edited version of the These Foolish Things storyline. Looking at its cover this simply must be the case as I cannot see some of the characters I just met in the movie tie-in snapshots on its cover in the story I just completed, esp. the young Indian couple on the motorbike. Is this possibly supposed to evoke Ravi and Pauline? If so, how nice that the 50-somethings have been whittled down by decades and what at book's end is a candidly uncertain future for the couple vs. the victorious raised fist riding off together into a shared, blissful future. And if not, are these instead a paired up version of two of the young people staffing the call center immediately opposite the Marigold? Again: meh.(less)
Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague is a story inspired by a passing reference to an unnamed maid in a 17th-century rector's diary. The novel is hi...moreYear of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague is a story inspired by a passing reference to an unnamed maid in a 17th-century rector's diary. The novel is historical fiction built upon the scaffolding of the fact that in pre-Germ Theory days the residents of Eyam, Derbyshire, effectively quarantined themselves from the rest of the countryside so as not to unwittingly spread the contagion to friends and loved ones living elsewhere. As a consequence, over the plague year spanning 1665-1666, two of every three residents of the town succumbed to the Plague. It's a beautifully written novel of heartache and loss, of religious and secular conviction, of friendship, secrets, betrayal, fear, brutality, and possibility. It was, in fact, chugging steadily along to a 5-star Goodreads rating, a "book club recommendation" shelving, and possibly even best read (thus far) of 2013 status. And then this marvelous novel was undone in 8 pages. (I'm at a loss for words here. Literally, I need the female version of "emasculated" as that's what happened in the last chapter.) If the book were a weaving, the last bit didn't just worry the fabric, it unraveled it in a disfiguring way. Readers who must have the "Disneyfied" ending (you know, where the mermaid gives up her ability to breathe underwater, her friends, family and identity and is forced to live on land and is happy to do so in order to get The Prince who may/may not end up being so very Charming), will be pleased here. Those of us who wanted Anna to act consistently on the epiphany she'd had, who want to see her actually escape (vs. simply flee from one cage to a more exotic cage), will find novel's end to be entirely inconsistent with the Anna of the preceding 293 pages. This saccharine ending spoiled what was otherwise an outstanding read, so I'd suggest foregoing the Epilogue and creating your own ending. (less)
Gaiman's latest, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, requires a good deal more processing than I have been able to do since finishing it earlier this af...moreGaiman's latest, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, requires a good deal more processing than I have been able to do since finishing it earlier this afternoon. Parts of the narrator's account are likely Gaiman's own experiences--as he acknowledges in many places, including insertion of a family photo of him astride the gutter of his childhood home on the back cover of the book. Where Gaiman's capacity for self-reflection, his relationship with his father, and other plot-specific connections will doubtless keep many critics occupied for months, this reader was thrilled once again by his ability to scare the living crap out of us with monsters large and small, mythic and all-too literal. Certainly, I am left wondering whose funeral had the narrator returned to Sussex for? His father's? Does it really matter? The fact that the narrator forgets again by epilogue's end may well be his own coping strategy. Or, perhaps, it is one of those non-permeable boundaries between childhood and adulthood. Regardless, the timeless magic of the maiden, mother and crone trinity embodied in the Hempstock women, Gaiman's rendering of the way in which those who love us (human and non-human) frequently patrol our physical and psychic boundaries, and the haunting insights offered by the likes of wise-beyond-her-years Hettie Hempstock will bring me back to this book for a second read before long. I'll close with one of Hettie's observations that I haven't been able to get out of my head:
"I'm going to tell you something important. Grown-ups don't look like grown-ups on the inside either. Outside, they're big and thoughtless and they always know what they're doing. Inside, they look just like they always have. Like they did when they were your age. The truth is, there aren't any grown-ups. Not one, in the whole wide world." She thought for a moment. Then she smiled. "Except for Granny, of course." (p. 112).
So true--and no less so on a day that started with a poor night's sleep, sketchy cell service, a high-stakes job interview and ended with some welcome perspective from an 11-year old. Thanks Mr. Gaiman, well played as always!(less)
Like many folks, I was keen to see what J.K. Rowling might produce as her first post-Potter work. The Casual Vacancy, a story ostensibly about the dra...moreLike many folks, I was keen to see what J.K. Rowling might produce as her first post-Potter work. The Casual Vacancy, a story ostensibly about the drama that ensues when a city councilor's seat is vacated as a result of his untimely demise and the resulting power grab to fill his seat on the eve of resolving a highly contentious local initiative, most definitely establishes Rowling as an accomplished writer of adult fiction in addition to her celebrated YA work.
What I most enjoyed about this work were the far-reaching implications of the seemingly petty decision as to whether the subsidized housing community known as The Fields (built in the former fields of a once-thriving estate) should be cut lose from the idyllic village of Pagford and annexed instead to neighboring Yarvill. The story is well-written and doesn't unfold in a precisely linear format--which is nice as it allows the reader to form his/her own first impressions before getting the backstory on the longstanding ill will between the two communities. The parallels between the individual household dramas and the wider rift between pro- and anti-Fields voting blocks on the Council are nicely handled, and I greatly appreciated the grittiness of parts of the story. Likewise, the rifts forming around class, ethnicity, gender and most fundamentally what people envision as a community's obligations to its most vulnerable members (esp. at-risk children) are deftly handled via narration, dialog (esp. the dinner party gone horribly awry where social worker Kay is left to fend for herself against patronizing Miles), and the shifts from generation to generation within households.
I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I opened this book, but definitely had a hard time putting it down once I'd started.(less)
I scored an autographed copy about a month ago at Daedalus Books, and was thrilled to be diving into this novel given that I launched my Ethics class...moreI scored an autographed copy about a month ago at Daedalus Books, and was thrilled to be diving into this novel given that I launched my Ethics class this semester with a discussion of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum theft in 1990 (and the intriguing movie titled Stolen that recounts some of the details and lingering possibilities of this now decades-old unsolved crime).
That said, I came with very high expectations--as regards both the details of art crime and the art of storytelling. The "Gardner Heist" piece of it, indeed the faux historical correspondence that could so easily have been written by Isabella Stewart Gardner to her niece, the bits of how to gin up an approximation of hundred-year old craquelure, etc. were marvelous. Even copyist Claire Roth's scathing characterization of suburbanites' consumption of fine art under the heading OTC (for "over the couch"), is spot-on consistent with the ill treatment she's received at the hands of the art community and court of public opinion as a result of her near career-ending involvement in the Cullion Affair.
What was far less successful, in my estimation, was the storytelling. Specifically, I never worried for Claire and was eagerly awaiting her comeuppance, found Aiden Markel infinitely self-deluding, and truly wanted the "big surprise" to have been far BIGGER. Really? That was the payoff?! Hmmm... it could have been so much more nuanced, less cliched, and someone in addition to Claire's ISG Museum curator-pal Rik and Claire's defense attorney could/should have been sympathetic. (less)
Haruki Murakami's 1Q84 was the most interesting and, at times, unsettlingly enjoyable thing I've read this year. At its most surficial level, it begin...moreHaruki Murakami's 1Q84 was the most interesting and, at times, unsettlingly enjoyable thing I've read this year. At its most surficial level, it begins as the parallel stories of two characters: Aomame (essentially a contract killer who specializes in abusive men) and Tengo (a mathematics teacher at a "cram school" and would-be novelist). For much of the entire first book/section, the reader is not even entirely certain that these two--who are now 30-year olds but once shared an unspoken friendship for two years in elementary school--occupy the same planet. With time and what is truly some of the most graceful writing I've enjoyed in quite some time, the particular reality that they occupy is peopled and the two characters--themselves displaced into an alternate reality--become aware of the "otherness" of their situations. The term Aomame uses to refer to this alternate reality is "1Q84," the Q for question mark. Tengo, in contrast, refers to it as "the town of cats," for an eerie short story he read of the same name. While we know how Aomame was transported to this alternative reality, we never learn exactly how Tengo got there.
The bulk of the story consists of a combination of seemingly innocuous events that are subsequently seen to have tremendous import as well as the numerous hurdles placed in the main characters' way as a result of the points of intersection between a contract Aomame completes in which she dipatches the Leader of a religious cult and a ghost-writing project Tengo undertakes for his editor to improve a fantasy novella titled Air Chrysalis written by the 17-year old runaway daughter of this same cult leader. What made the novel so very fulfilling, in my estimation, was that no character or detail was wasted. That is, each was reasonably fully fleshed out--with the possible exception of Buzzcut and Ponytail, but even with them we got the sense that they were in mortal danger if they did not succeed in apprehending the Leader's killer. I even found myself both fascinated by and empathetic to the plight of the resourceful and Machiavellian investigator Ushikawa. (Plus, Jung's phrase "Cold or not, God is present" will henceforth creep me the heck out!)
An enormous amount of credit must be given to translators Jay Rubin and Philip Gabriel, who helped transform this 925-page tome into English while retaining the beauty and Easternness (for lack of a better word) of the author's voice and sensibility. As an example, the nurse at a sanatorium describes the peacefulness of an elderly father's death to his son in the following manner: "His face looked very peaceful. It was like--a windless day at the end of autumn, when a single leaf falls from a tree" (p. 828). In other words, the language and description takes its time to unfold and, to be sure, this is quite a long book. In fact, in its original Japanese, the book was apparently published as three separate books. The English translation, however, is divided into three sections--each of roughly equivalent length. I would be absolutely fascinated to discuss this book with a native Japanese speaker who read both the Japanese and English versions, to hear how the two compared.
Some reviewers have glossed 1Q84 as an homage to Orwell's 1984. While it makes many references, both direct and indirect, to that work, my sense of the work is that it is so very much more than that. 1Q84 is an extremely literary work, citing and referencing many literary and film classics. What I found most effective and enjoyable about this was that the author used these efforts as means for developing characters' backgrounds and adding depth to their backstories in ways that made the reader "do the math." One of my favorite examples, for instance, was when one of the novel's main characters Aomame is forced to go into hiding after completing one of her assignments. Her go-between with her employer, Tamaru, explains to her that he will include in her next shipment of groceries and other supplies his seven-volume set of Proust's In Search of Lost Time. He readily admits to not having read it yet himself, but explains that it is something he purchased at a younger age when involved with the Yakuza and readily expecting to serve a long jail sentence. Placed in its context, and against our evolving understanding of the surprising amount of compassion in a stone cold killer, this is just one of many literary and popular cultural references that isn't an author pounding his/her chest and saying, "See how smart I am?" Instead, it truly works as an effective device for narrative-building and characterization.
In sum, 1Q84 was an extremely fascinating, difficult-to-pigeonhole, and thoroughly entertainingly unsettling book. Reading it requires a good bit of attention, and you sure don't want to fall asleep while reading in bed as this one is most definitely what we refer to at our house as a "nosebreaker." It's the kind of rich writing where all sorts of parallels exist, no character is "filler," and--much to my satisfaction--the ending is not a tidy one. This is fiction that makes you think, even after you've completed it. (less)
The concept underlying The Lost Artist is quite clever--the "responsible sister" is murdered in her home because of something to do with a series of m...moreThe concept underlying The Lost Artist is quite clever--the "responsible sister" is murdered in her home because of something to do with a series of murals being restored on the walls in an upstairs room of her 19th-century Illinois farmhouse. Upon her death, her "irresponsible performance artist younger sister" inherits the house, the menacing feeling that the house is being watched (which escalates into physical attacks on her), and the increasing sense that the people associated with the house, the murals, and her sister's research into how these things connect with the dislocation of the Cherokee Indians westward along the Trail of Tears all fit together. This part of the story worked quite well.
Gosh, I really had high hopes for this book. It dealt with a terrible but nonetheless fascinating moment in American history, it tackled the academic world's sometimes hypocrisy in affording higher status to written vs. oral forms of knowledge and tradition, and it integrated some quite interesting threads in ethnohistorical forms of documentation and tribal history. Plus, when Rose and Alex went to visit the Cherokee elder, I was extremely impressed by Rose's sense of why the woman would value the drawing and feel a tremendous sense of responsibility in protecting this item that had been placed in her care. Moreover, I enjoyed how Rose tried (albeit largely unsuccessfully) to silence Alex who adopted what has historically been far too many academic and outsider's attitude that "I know better than you what the fate of this item should be." Rose instinctively knew that Alex needed to close his mouth before he totally alienated this gatekeeper to an astounding source of information.
On the whole, The Lost Artist contained great detail, well-balanced shifts between the present day narration and historic events. The art history and tribal dislocation pieces were deftly handled. Without spoiling anything, so-called "irresponsible sister" Rose's instincts are mostly sound which serves to in large part vindicate what we've been told of her life choices--largely alluded to in passing (e.g., two failed marriages, nearly maxed-out credit cards, her spotty employment history, and the fact that she's just been evicted from her Chicago apartment). Unfortunately, there was a specific late-in-the-story development which was, for me, the fictional equivalent of "jumping the shark." While doubtless intended as a major "Gotcha!" plot twist at the tail end of the story and, not wanting to spoil any details, I will say that the part that failed so utterly for me was not the who/what/when/where/how of the murals and their art historical geneaology. Instead, where the otherwise carefully constructed house of cards irretrievably fell apart was what I'll refer to obliquely as the "deep sea treasure" part and its implications for the timing of and participants involved in the earliest culture contact in the New World. To just dump that in at the end was ungrounded empirically and did nothing whatsoever, in my estimation, to further, resolve, embellish, or in any way improve the story that was 99.6% complete by that point. To use a sailing analogy, up until this last point author Gail Lukasik had successfully achieved optimal trim. Our sails were full, and we were flying toward the book's successful finish, our hair happily streaming behind us with our faces tilted to the sun. What this last-minute drop-in accomplished was an end-of-novel equivalent of luffing. We lost all the momentum and just sat there, with sagging empty sails, wondering what had just happened. (We/I knew what had happened, but were powerless to imagine why the story/author felt it necessary to "go there.") Up to that point, the story had been really quite good (i.e., thoughtfully developed, evidentiary chains established, etc.), but this last bit just totally blew it for me. I'd be interested to know whether others who have read this book felt the same way.
Don't get me wrong, I'm lamenting a last-minute plot twist that I feel failed. Lukasik is a very fine writer and the dust jacket notes that she writes a Leigh Girard mystery series. I am definitely going to check them out.(less)
The Grievers is part coming of age novel and part indictment of the hard facts of life (e.g., that life is hard, often unfair, that people who are jer...moreThe Grievers is part coming of age novel and part indictment of the hard facts of life (e.g., that life is hard, often unfair, that people who are jerks will often achieve success whereas folks who are decent will climb the ladder comparatively slower, etc.). Based on a clever conceit, the premise of the book is that Charley Schwartz is a doctoral candidate whose dissertation has stalled, whose summer job with a bank requires that he wear an anthropomorphic dollar sign which has him slipping in the mud and losing any remaining shred of his rapidly-eroding self-respect, when he learns that high school acquaintance Billy Chin has taken his life. With the best of intentions, Charley approaches their prestigeous prep school alma mater to host a memorial service in Billy's honor. Instead, it turns into a three-ring circus when the school's development officer and Charley's high school nemesis become involved. Where the novel fell a bit short for me was how unsympathetic I found Charlie. His long-suffering wife, Karen, is just that--and it seems little warranted. The story comes full circle, and Charley appears to have a glimmering of what adulthood might involve by book's end. While hopeful, I'm just not certain that he'll manage to keep it together long enough to do right by Billy's memory and the generation of boys who have successfully transitioned to adulthood. (less)
Journal: The Short Life and Mysterious Death of Amy Zoe Mason is a clever concept executed by sisters Kristine and Joyce Atkinson. The conceit is that...moreJournal: The Short Life and Mysterious Death of Amy Zoe Mason is a clever concept executed by sisters Kristine and Joyce Atkinson. The conceit is that the authors (er, I mean the women who "found" the journal) purchased a piece of furniture at a resale shop and, when preparing to refinish it, discovered this journal hidden under one of its drawers.
The "Journal" itself (wink, wink) is part art project/part psychiatric homework/part confessional executed by a young married mother of two who is in the process of packing up her recently-deceased mother's possessions and preparing to sell the house so that she and her two children can join her cardiologist husband who has just assumed a prestigious position in Boston. Through snippets of family photos, e-mails, postcards, and Amy's own caligraphied and later sloppily handwritten notes to herself, readers witness the dissolution of Amy's perfect world.
At first blush, the story called to mind such projects as Bantok's Griffin & Sabine series, Leanne Shapton's oh-so-clever spoof catalog titled Important Artifacts and Personal Property of the Collection of Lenore Dooland & Harold Morris through which one pieces together the beginning, middle and financial termination of that relationship, or even Stephanie Meyer's journalesque The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner. Heck, I even kinda enjoyed Lynch & Peters' Secret Life of Laura Palmer back in the day--so this form of story is an easy sell for me. That said, it's hard not to compare this work with the first two of those just-named projects--in which case this one falls a bit short as the artwork of this "altered book" doesn't enjoy the inseparable fit between story and artwork that those other works achieve. This, coupled with the fact that it's pretty clear what led to and who is responsible for Amy's untimely demise--oh, and the fact that you never really care about any of the characters in the book--are what make it fall short of those other efforts.
It's a really clever concept and I think that if Amy's death had been a little less obvious, the authors might have succeeded in getting us to wonder "what if...?" every time we read the Society pages or descriptions of some big philanthropy "do" planned, hosted and attended by the Beautiful People. Instead, because it wasn't, the reader is never unsettled beyond the pages of this book--which I had sincerely wished it had been able to accomplish. But don't take my word for it. This really is a clever idea and a super fast read (seriously, two hours will do you), so check it out yourself. (less)
Pocket Kings is a clever, and at times slightly too clever, send up of the publishing world, the vaguaries of virtual communities and the associations...morePocket Kings is a clever, and at times slightly too clever, send up of the publishing world, the vaguaries of virtual communities and the associations formed therein, and the sad fact that the things we are most passionate about may well not be the things for which we are best suited. Parts are incredibly tough to read (e.g., the impromptu Last Vegas roadtrip), precisely because they are so very familiar, their conclusions so inevitable, and this reader was forced to wait seemingly forever for failed author Frank W. Dixon's (not that Frank W. Dixon) wife to tip to the fact that he's addicted to online poker, engaged in emotional (if not entirely physical) infidelity, and most assuredly not hard at work on the next Great American Novel. Pocket Kings was a fun and fast read, and I appreciated the fact that things were not tidily sorted by book's close. (less)
Kingdom Come is novelist J.G. Ballard's final novel as he passed away in 2009. As such, it is a grand and fitting cap to a cycle of work that has cons...moreKingdom Come is novelist J.G. Ballard's final novel as he passed away in 2009. As such, it is a grand and fitting cap to a cycle of work that has consistently explored themes of unfettered consumerism and the increasing alienation wrought by technology.
In this particular outing, recently-fired advertising executive Richard Pearson leaves the comfort of his urban existence to explore one of the outer suburbs where his father was recently shot to death at a shopping mall. Once he arrives in the Brooklands, one of countless such communities ringing the M25 outside London, Richard quickly tips to the fact that all is not what it seems. Was his father's death the result of his own investigation of the violent activities of sports enthusiasts gone too far, a botched assassination attempt by a local madman with a grudge against the Metro-Centre, or something else altogether? Despite the fact that his previous career as an advertising executive positions him better than anyone else to understand the game-within-the-game that is unfolding, Richard is increasingly drawn into a series of bizarre events that result in the occupation of the Metro-Centre by misguided citizens who feel they are protecting it from assault by the central government. Some of the transitions are a bit confusing, especially those separating the three sections of the novel. Likewise, Richard's choices sometimes seem inconsistent given the knowledge he alone possesses. The well-executed exploration of overarching themes of consumerism run amok, the fear and hatred of difference enacted in some suburban communities, the evils of advertising without limits, and the sad reality of losing a parent one truly never knew are sufficiently and artfully developed so as to overcome such quibbles.
For a reader who once lived in a suburban "new town" in which a large, upscale shopping mall was framed as the Town Centre, the book jacket's warning rings alarmingly true: "Now more than ever, this apocalyptic portrait of suburban London, this stark warning about the excesses of consumer culture and the reactionary forces that spring in its wake, is echoing across the developed world with disturbing accuracy." That is, Ballard's Metro-Centre and Brooklands could be a stand-in for countless other malls and suburbs around the world. With that in mind, the caveat with which the novel concludes resonates at a global level and from beyond the grave. All told, this was a well-executed and provocative read. (less)