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Satin Island

3.23  ·  Rating details ·  5,025 ratings  ·  778 reviews
From the author of Remainder (the major feature-film adaption of which will be released in 2015) and C (short-listed for the Booker Prize), and winner of the Windham Campbell Prize, a novel that promises to give us the first and last word on the world--modern, postmodern, whatever world you think you are living in.

When we first meet U., our narrator, he is waiting out a de
Hardcover, 192 pages
Published February 17th 2015 by Knopf
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Average rating 3.23  · 
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 ·  5,025 ratings  ·  778 reviews

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Barry Pierce
What an utterly boring and navel-gazing novel. This was longlisted for the Man Booker!? In this novel we follow a character named U, no really, he's called fucking U, while he wonders and ponders for 200ish pages. I applaud this novel on its brevity, any longer and I would have literally died of boredom. 85% of this novel is just full scientific hokum that will just baffle and confuse any casual reader. Not to mention that it did one of my ultimate peeves. At some parts it reminded me of... Pala ...more
Sep 16, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Flashes of brilliance amid interminable shite.
Jun 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Jonathan Lethem, discussing his resistance to rereading Don DeLillo, wrote that he's "either as great as I thought he was when I thought he made all other writing look silly or he's a total disaster." I thought of that quote often as I read Satin Island. I don't know how to talk about this book other than to say I think it's a masterpiece. How can this plotless novel with a nameless protagonist who spends the course of the book looking at oil spills work so astonishingly well? Why is it a novel ...more
Adam Dalva
Feb 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Wow is this good - It's a strange, lean little novel/essay that has an incredibly interesting plot that it takes care to never actually show you (much of the critical work I've found on here is about that plot, which is funny). The meandering little linked essays recall Sebald, and stand as a refutation to 10:04, which I liked but seems bloated in comparison. There's even a superior cephalopod sequence! I loved McCarthy's Remainder, but this really is better. It takes on contemporary issues of a ...more
Marc Kozak
Sep 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
Events! If you want those, you'd best stop reading now.

About 14 pages in, McCarthy issues this warning, and you should really take it seriously. If you have trouble reading books without things like interesting plots, memorable characters, evocative settings, romance, pacing, or normal narrative structures in general, then McCarthy is not for you. Seriously, turn back now.

McCarthy doesn't write; he strolls. He finds joy in things a step below the little things. He would likely be enthralled by a
Sep 25, 2015 rated it liked it
I understand why people don't like this book that much, but I don't completely understand people who hate it. I mean, at some points there is nothing that exceptional. But at others it delivers these moments of clarity and insight that I have never seen put down in words before. And the connected nature of the storytelling and what U. as a narrator is examining was incredibly interesting and thought-provoking. He's not a particularly interesting character, though. He has virtually no personality ...more
Justin Evans
Mar 14, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
I give this book one star as a desperate cry for attention, which I figure is okay, since the book's blurb describes SI as "an unnerving novel that promises to give us the first and last word on the world" and suggests that in this book McCarthy "captures--as only he can--the way we experience our world." Take that, entire rest of the world!

Of course, the blurb is in part a joke, because the book's main character, U., is meant to write a report that is about everything--that will "name the world
This book gained a lot of publicity last year and seems to have divided opinion. Having heard talk of how McCarthy was reshaping the form of the novel, I was a little surprised how much this retained a traditional fictional structure, even though much of it does consist of semi-random musings on various oddities of modern life, and how they might be interpreted by an anthropologist such as the narrator U, who "works" for a shadowy corporation on a grand unifying project to understand and control ...more
Jun 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: brits, best-of-2016
This little corner of the internet, this niche on a server somewhere in Thailand or Romania or wherever the digital archive that is connected with ·Karen·'s GR account is situated, what do you reckon, is that my little piece of immortality? How long after my death will these meandering reviews of books I have read since 2008 be stored, I wonder?

I loved this.

A running riff throughout the narrative is the story of a parachutist's death, which has its own resonance with me. We share our slightly un
May 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
“The first move of any strategy of cultural production, he’d say, must be to liberate things – objects, situations, systems – into uselessness.”
― Tom McCarthy, Satin Island


I'm going to bounce back and forth between three and four stars on this one. When McCarthy is writing about things and dancing through data, symbols, fabrics, etc his prose reminds me of William Gibson and his Blue Ant trilogy. He has a way of organizing chaos or at least describing the chaos in a way that allows the reade
Sam Quixote
One of the most pretentious people I ever met was an anthropologist (the person would literally sniff and turn their noses up after making a point), so it’s no surprise to me that a novel featuring an anthropologist would turn out to be a load of pretentious crap. Because Satin Island is essentially a narrative about narratives (sniffs, turns up nose).

Our main character is U, a corporate anthropologist working for a major London consultancy firm that advises global corporations and governments
Sep 30, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
1.5 stars.

I thought about writing a longer review for this, but when I tried to think of what I could possibly say about this book I drew an almost-total blank. Essentially, the one thought this book left me with was: what was the fucking point?

Why this has been shortlisted for the Man Booker prize I'll never know. Once or twice there were elements that I thought were quite entertaining (U's thought process on how he would have done his speech better was amusing), but for the most part this was
Dannii Elle
I can honestly say that this book is like no other I have read before but I am totally undecided on whether I loved, loathed or tolerated it!

Satin Island is set in the corporate world and deals with the overwhelming prospect of finding meaning to our existence and our place in the world around us, through an ethnographic approach. It is set out in the format of, what appear to be, seemingly disjointed journal entries penned by our protagonist, U. These entries help to build an image of the ma
Joachim Stoop
Apr 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
Mea culpa!
A friend/avid reader was so crazy about this novel, that it convinced me to reread it. To be honest, the first time I didn't find an entrance so I drifted out to reading it impatiently, ending almost diagonally. It was a reading experience of more effort than gain, with more sketchy, blurry texts than oxygen and patterns and it slipped away from me. I sensed it was brilliant but didn't see it.
The second time - more patient- I found out that my entrance lay a bit further up the road. I
Aug 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Antonomasia by: It's the shortest thing on the 2015 Booker longlist
Narrated by an anthropologist working for a large corporation, I'd guess at some point within the next five years, Satin Island deals with some topics I find fascinating that often get a rough ride on Goodreads: academic analysis of aspects of pop/contemporary culture which are not literary, artistic or scientific; and an area of corporate culture and relations best bracketed under marketing. (I sometimes think I might be the only person on GR who really likes the DFW story 'Mr Squishy', and tha ...more
Feb 24, 2015 rated it liked it
Recommended to Trish by: Adam Dalva
I almost gave up on this. I couldn’t get a grip. A GR friend had said there was a great section at the end. I flipped there and discovered where SATIN in the title comes from, and noticed that in The Acknowledgements McCarthy talks about spending his grant time watching video loops of oil spills projected on his office walls. That was my entry point. I started again.

This profoundly disturbing novel is written in chapters that resemble memos to oneself while the main character, U, engages in a co
Interesting enough in places, but Booker Prize material? Nah. U. is a corporate anthropologist in London, coming off the success of the Koob–Sassen contract and facing the blank page of the Great Report he’s been tasked with writing. But not much happens here; the book is much more about his anthropological observations and the things he fixates on, like oil spills, a sabotaged parachutist, and Satin Island – a place he encounters in a dream and then, by word association, likens to Staten Island ...more
David Katzman
Apr 03, 2017 rated it liked it
An odd and somewhat interesting book that felt flawed in execution but worth reading. The main character is an anthropologist with a corporate job, essentially helping to develop consumer cultural insights to help his corporation make more money. The book is split between mundane slice of life experiences and his esoteric/abstract social insights. Which I felt were a mishmash of intriguing analyses and vague bullshit. With quite a bit of denial and rationalization thrown in, to justify his worki ...more
Satin Island is an exasperating novel that occasionally hints at being extraordinary, but the reader’s enjoyment of it is constantly thwarted by Tom McCarthy himself.

Perhaps that is the ultimate point: this is one of those eyebrow-arched postmodern treatises on the meaninglessness of meaning in our information-saturated (Dis)Information Age.

Oops: ‘Treatise’ is one of the words that are struck-through on the cover, along with Report, Confession, Essay and Manifesto. That leaves Novel … but the re
Britta Böhler
Sep 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Re-reading this book right after having finished A Brief History of Seven Killings, it made me realize - even more than the first time 'round - how much Satin Island is the anti-novel, anti-realism and anti-plot.

The main character, called U, (You, the reader? A reference to Ulysses?) is an anthropologist working for The Company and his main project is to write the ultimate book about our time and age.

As I said before, Satin Island is not about plot. If you enjoy books mainly because of the stor
Nate D
Mar 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
The theme of the conference was -- for once! -- not The Future. It was The Contemporary. This was even worse.

Yes, the Contemporary is much much worse than it seems. Or seemed. Things seem quite bad now, but here, a few years back, McCarthy was conducting a mass anthropological excavation of a dysfunctional post-modern world -- vast and inescapable systems, invisible power centers, lost objectivity, sullied data sets, and, at its heart a magnetically fascinating system of waste and decay. McCarth
Mar 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
I saw McCarthy speak at the NYC Center for Fiction just a few hours after I finished reading this book. My first of his novels, I was initially attracted by its ubiquitous categorization as avant-garde fiction and then further intrigued by its many comparisons to DeLillo.

True to the latter descriptor, Satin Island often reminded me of DeLillo's vision of the Warren Report (apropos Libra) as "the Oxford English Dictionary of the assassination and also the Joycean novel." This link was corroborate
Oct 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: contemporary, 2015
1.1 Ever gone to do a quick look-up of something on Wikipedia, and 5 hours later you're still there following links to things you never realised you had an interest in until just then? Yeah, me either *shifty eyes*. That's kind of like this book. We follow U as he moves through "wormholes of associations" (love that phrase SO MUCH), leaping subject to subject, but with common threads he keeps returning to.

1.2 When I stop and think about this book too much, I realise I probably don't really under
John Pistelli
Imagine DeLillo or Ballard without either of those writers' command of language. Imagine prose in the style of successful young humanities academics today, who write as if they have read every novel, played every video game, grasped every political theory, and can now proceed to shuffle them around in a snide and knowing way meant to flatter or intimidate a like-minded audience. Imagine a novel that postures as avant-garde, yet wastes a page telling its readers about Schrödinger's cat, as if thi ...more
Mary K
Mar 13, 2015 rated it it was ok
Great--now I'll always have to carry around a backpack filled with copies of Remainder. That way, when I slap Satin Island out of the hands of strangers, I can say, "Hey, sorry about that. Read this instead. It's probably the book you were looking for." ...more
Sep 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
This is a very heady little exercise - a Kafka-esque parable for post-post-modern times, where our narrator is named "U." Just in that choice you'll know if you're inclined to enjoy or hate this book. as calling your first-person narrator "U." embodies a bundle of signifiers both annoying and entertaining. The surprise is that this choice, like much of the book, ends up being genuinely thought provoking.

I'm actually one who could jump either way on such things. I tend not to like pretentious bo
Sep 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Fans of Don DeLillo
Recommended to Aldrin by: Man Booker Prize shortlist (2015); Peter Mendelsund
Ostensibly “Satin Island” by Tom McCarthy is a novel about a so-called corporate anthropologist’s attempt to write the so-called Great Report, an ethnographic document summing up our age. But it’s less a novel than any of the struck-through descriptions on its cover: an essay, a confession, a manifesto, a treatise, a report. It may very well be the Great Report itself, even as it’s written not unlike a series of banal fragments by an op-ed contributor at the Guardian or incomprehensible blog ent ...more
Jul 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
More like a 4.5, but didn't feel it merited the rounding up! The shortest of this year's Man Booker Longlist selections, it might well prove to also be the densest in terms of intellectual gymnastics and pyrotechnics. Like some unholy godchild of early Pynchon and Nicholson Baker, in that it details (in MINUTE detail) the protagonist U's attempt to understand the modern world, while compiling his (perhaps sinister) corporation's Great Report on its Koob-Sassen Project. On the basis of this, I am ...more
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ManBookering: Satin Island by Tom McCarthy 17 136 Oct 19, 2015 04:35PM  

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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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