Category: fiction


BRAVE NEW WORLD by Aldous Huxley (1931)

huxleyIn his foreword, Aldous Huxley wrote that “A book about the future can interest us only of its proficies look as though they might conceivably come true”. Unfortunately for us, his nightmarish visions are increasingly coming to seem all too accurate.

Almost half a century before the birth of the world’s first ‘test tube’ baby, Huxley imagined how “newly unbottled babes” might be used to “improve on nature” by replacing the need for parents and what he provocatively defined as the “appalling dangers of family life”. In the ‘new world’ human genes are manipulated to produce docile and efficient workers and consumers.

The promise of sexual freedom and the encouragement of promiscuity serves as a compensation for the absence of political or economic liberty. Dumb movies known as ‘feelies’ have an additional sedating function while a legal drug called ‘soma’ is taken to avert any lingering gloomy thoughts. Continue reading

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Making time for Ishiguro

A PALE VIEW OF HILLS by Kazuo Ishiguro (Faber & Faber, 1982)

paleviewofhills72436I can’t remember why , after reading and enjoying ‘Remains Of The Day’ in 1989, I didn’t follow this up by immediately seeking out other books by Kazuo Ishiguro. Maybe I was swayed by negative reviews of his other novels or perhaps I dipped into one without any real committment.

Certainly, if I had been looking for fast-paced fiction with a clear linear narrative structure I would have been disappointed. Ishiguro’s writing is built around emotional reflections rather than being preoccupied with standard plot-driven devices.

I have come to recognize that patience is a virtue when it comes to reading. Writers that are superficially accessible are usually the least rewarding. Thankfully, therefore, I’ve belatedly discovered how rich and powerful Ishiguro’s other novels are. Continue reading

NO LAUGHING MATTER by Anthony Cronin (First published by Grafton Books, 1989)

984085There are certain novels, like Robert Musil’s ‘The Man Without Qualities’, that I find too daunting to even attempt and others, such as Malcolm Lowry’s ‘Under The Volcano’ that I have tried but failed to complete.

‘At Swim-Two-Birds’ by Flann O’Brien was, until this year, gathering dust in my unfinished pile. I have Anthony Cronin’s candid and informative biography of O’Brien to thank for finally completing this short, comic but notoriously challenging novel.

Cronin skillfully puts the work into a literary and historical context while bluntly presenting the man behind it as a sad character. Continue reading

WALKAWAY – a novel by Cory Doctorow (Head Of Zeus, 2017)

220px-walkaway_28a_cory_doctorow_novel29_book_coverWhat is it that derails dreams of utopia and resigns us to the notion that the future is fated to turn out dystopian? Cory Doctorow‘s ambitious and entertaining novel doesn’t provide any definitive answers to this plight but asks plenty of thought-provoking questions.

The problems of the soul-corroding world of work in the modern world are vividly described by Doctorow as one character  remembers a daily routine consisting of “early mornings crunched on meaningless deadlines with the urgency of a car-crash for no discernible reason”.

Cory Doctorow poses the question : If another world to this is possible, what would it be like? His answer comes in the form of a utopian vision of a “better nation” which takes the sociopolitical aims of the Occupy Movement to their logical conclusion. Continue reading

Less by Andrew Sean Greer (First published in the USA by Lee Boudreaux Books 2017)

lessAs a picaresque, comic novel this, at first glance, appears to be an unlikely winner of the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Yet, although there are moments of high farce, there is a serious message behind the humour.

It is the bitter-sweet tale of Arthur Less, who is about to turn 50 and is described as “an author too old to be fresh and too young to be rediscovered”. He is far from being a failure but a long way from being the success he once dreamed of. He is a single gay man whose most significant of numerous relationships was with a Pulitzer prize-winning poet who is now gravely ill.

Aside from this, Less has recently ended a relationship with a younger man on such amicable terms that he has been invited to his ex’s wedding. Anxious to avoid this, he devises a plan. Continue reading

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