Tag Archives: fiction

Read a Book: The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman

19 Feb

Ahhh the News. So controversial, so fascinating, so now. From the satiric novel Scoop by Evelyn Waugh, to Gonzo writings of Hunter S Thomspon, through to the numerous Murdoch inspired tales, the story of the people behind the stories has always provided for a good plot, mixed with some racy politics. Add to that the incessant chattering about the Death of the Newspaper and the Threat of the Internet on Journalism, and you’ve got a book waiting to happen.

The Imperfectionists

The Imperfectionists

For London journalist Tom Rachman, it’s these themes, combined with his own journalism background, that has lead to the creation of The Imperfectionists. Set in the newsroom of a small, flailing Italian Newspaper, and flitting between the past (from the 1950s) to the present (2007), the story builds on the standalone stories of each of the people that make up the newspaper.

It’s these characters that make the novel; from the fastidious copy editor, to the green young stringer, the loveless financial officer to the obsessive, slightly manic reader. As each story plays out themes of day to day human suffering (infidelity, broken friendships, lies and loss), the constant sub plot is the incessant demand for deadlines and headlines, and the pressure that falling readership and increasing online competition eventually has on the paper.

More gratifying than gritty or gripping, Rachman’s skills is balancing the stories of human foibles against a world where Saddam Hussein is on a rampage, unrest in Cairo, devastation in Rwanda, and where Britney has shaved her head. With a cracker of a revelation at the end of each chapter, the novel is a blend of newsroom satire and Roald Dahl’s Switch Bitch.

Robot Rating: 8/10

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Read a Book: The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway

14 Feb
A really good science fiction novel should probably make you feel like you’re on some bad trip. Half a drop too much of the brown acid, and you know that the mind altering worlds of Philip K. Dick or Kurt Vonnegut are going to make you feel slightly nauseous, but immediately addicted. 

The Gone Away World

The Gone Away World

The same can be said for the relatively new author Nick Harkaway, whose debut novel The Gone-Away World is just as mind bending and queasy as those created by the former authors.

Like any half decent sci-fi novel, this tome (at over 500 pages) isn’t your standard futuristic, robotic infused adventure. Tilt it one way and it’s a boyhood friendship between the nameless protagonist and his childhood buddy Gonzo Lubisch. Tilt it another way, and there’s a pleasing love story narrative. Stare at it front on though and it’s a topsy turvy adventure novel that takes in a plethora of exploits involving characters that range from Pencil Neck Authorities, a Mime Troop, a Nameless Bar Man, a Malevolent Mechanic, a hell like place full of people called K and some giant killer bees.

There are also a lot of Ninja’s. A brilliant amount of Ninja’s! And after reading this, you’re sure that a Ninja would make most books a tad more interesting. As Harkaway  explains on his website “Very few serious books have ninjas. This is one of them. It’s also a comedy, of course, because serious things are funny.”

So what’s the gist of the novel? At it’s core is the global destruction caused by the Gone-Away War, whereby a series of annihilating bombs that make things Go Away have destroyed most forms of human life as we know it, save for pockets of post-apocalyptic survivors.  When the one Pipeline that is the backbone of survival ignites, it sets off a chain of events that involve our nameless hero and his band of renegade trouble shooters.

Harkaway himself admits that his novel is impossible to explain, and quite often you’ll find yourself sinking in a convoluted story of confusing characters and scenes, that are built on a fantastic use of language sans the appropriate amount of coherency. The beauty of this novel is that just as your mind gets ready to explode in confusion, tidbits of information are woven into the confusion, and Harkaway weaves together a satisfying, conclusion to the tale.

Robot Rating: 8.5/10

New words learned while reading this book:

1. “quislings” – traitor who collaborates with an enemy force occupying their country.
2. “conurbation” – an extended urban area, typically consisting of several towns merging with the suburbs of one or more cities.
3. “seppuku” – ritual form of suicide by disembowelment. Japanese from setsu – to cut and+ fuku – abdomen
4. “guano” – the excrement of seabirds, occurring in thick deposits notably on the islands of Peru and Chile and used as fertiliser.
5. “noosphere” a postulated sphere or stage of evolutionary development dominated by consciousness, the mind and interpersonal relationships.

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