Book Reviews: Fiction

The Teleportation Accident
Ned Beauman
Last edited on: 17/08/2013 - 10:59

Ned Beauman's second novel starts briskly, set in the early 1930s in bohemian Berlin – a time when the country was on the brink and the drink / drugs and casual sex excesses of the previous decade would be wiped away with the onset of Nazi-ism. The central character is Egon Loeser – a somewhat dislikeable and politically incorrect theatrical set designer who becomes obsessed with reproducing seventeenth century Adriano Lavicini (don't bother Googling – he's fictional) magnum opus – an on-stage teleportation device capable of moving scenery using a complex combination of pulleys and ropes.

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The Greatcoat
Helen Dunmore
Last edited on: 11/03/2013 - 00:11

Prolific author and winner of the Orange Prize Helen Dunmore has turned her hand at a ghost story set in post war Yorkshire 1952, the days of rationing and austerity. Isabel is the bride of ambitious country doctor Philip and they start their life together in a cramped ground floor flat with the mysterious and abrupt landlady habiting upstairs where her pacing the floorboards can be heard day and night.

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Landscape With Dead Dons
Robert Robinson
Last edited on: 10/03/2013 - 22:48

The erudite Robert Robinson, a middle class grammar school boy born in Liverpool, went on to become one of the UK's most enduring, popular and respected broadcasters over a career spanning 60 years. It came as something of a surprise to me when reading his obituary to discover he penned a number of mystery novels back in the 1950s. His first effort, Landscape with Dead Dons, was published shortly after he came down from Oxford University in 1956. I made it my business to track a copy down, which proved troublesome but ultimately bore fruit.

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Steve Aylett
Last edited on: 17/02/2013 - 14:52

Jeff Lint is the subject of this surreal and satirical biography penned by Steve Alyett. Lint is a pulp science fiction author who started his career writing short stories for penny dreadfuls with outlandish titles such as Troubling Developments and Tales to Appalland graduated to the novel with One Less Person Lying and Jelly Result.

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Iain Banks
Last edited on: 01/07/2012 - 19:28

There is something familial with Iain Banks' latest novel. The central character Stewart Gilmour returns to his home town in native Scotland – a theme explored in earlier works Espedair Street and The Crow Road. The town is fictional Stonemouth, north of Aberdeen, approached over a suspension bridge (The Bridge and Complicity). It is told in flashback during the unfolding events of a long weekend.

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Irvine Welsh
Last edited on: 17/06/2012 - 10:34

Irvine Welsh returns to familiar territory with his latest book. Ostensibly Skagboys is a prequel to the 1993 blockbuster Trainspotting that launched Welsh's career, although in reality much of the text was written before this and recovered from obsolete Amstrad word processor floppy disks. The book re-acquaints the reader with loveable miscreants Renton, Spud, Sick Boy and Begbie – names familiar to scholar's of Welsh's work – during the mid 80s at a time they have left school and are on the dole or in dead-end manual labour jobs.

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Lost Memory of Skin
Russell Banks
Last edited on: 01/05/2012 - 20:23

It's not everyday a critically acclaimed and popular novel covers the subject matter in Russell Banks' latest book Lost Memory of Skin. The protagonist is simply referred to as 'The Kid' – a convicted sex offender released from prison with a tracking device attached to his ankle. This device will monitor his movements for a ten year parole period, and should he venture to within 2500ft of a school or a playground, or any place where children congregate, he will be busted back to jail.

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The Pornographer of Vienna
Lewis Crofts
Last edited on: 04/02/2012 - 13:20

Lewis Crofts' fictionalised narrative biography of the Austrian artist Egon Schiele provides a detailed account of the life of the tortured painter, misunderstood for large parts of his life, yet ultimately successful only to succumb to Spanish Flu at an early age. The soubriquet The Pornographer of Vienna was attached to Schiele by a Viennese judge during an obscenity trial since many of his works, provocative and clearly showing female genitals, outraged society and caused Schiele to be incarcerated.

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Stephen King
Last edited on: 15/01/2012 - 12:13

Being the dreadful literary snob that I am, I have never felt moved to read any of populist author's Stephen King's work. When I saw a synopsis for his most recent publication, 11.22.63, I realised it was high time to bury that irrational prejudice. However, the book is daunting – a very hefty 730 pages - which needs to be factored into the decision-making process. I only have time to read during my daily commute which of course meant I would be lugging around the tome for a protracted period of time.

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The Night Circus
Erin Morgenstern
Last edited on: 03/12/2011 - 12:38

Erin Morgenstern's debut novel "The Night Circus" has been somewhat unfairly called the natural successor to the Harry Potter series of books. There will certainly be some overlap of the target readership, but with a fleeting sex scene (more of this later) Morgenstern has deliberately narrowed the demographic so it is unlikely it could be considered ideal toddler bedtime reading.

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