sunjata_1

Reviews
More
Society Of The Spectacle

by

This book is sporadically very interesting as it deals with one of Marx's most useful ideas - the alienation of labour - in the context of late capitalism. However, the 'spectacle' that is at the heart of this alienation is never convincingly defined, nor discussed in anything but vague generalities. The language is frequently incomprehensible, deliberately so, I expect, to cover up the underdeveloped and infrequent ideas.There is also a real and very teenage contempt for life, and by extension people, in the modern world.As a book it is also very odd, containing lengthy digressions on history (agrarian societies have no history!) and Marxist tittle-tattle, but not explaining what a détournement is, except to say how revolutionary they are.In summary, I call bullshit on this one.
Zoo City

by and

A noir-SF set in near-future South Africa is an exciting proposition but this didn't quite work for me. The narrator is 'animalled' after causing the death of her brother and is stuck in the underworld, scraping a living using her newly-found magic ability to find lost things. This ability then gets her entangled in a mystery of a missing pop star. The plot is overly complicated and somewhat confusing. The achingly hip prose grates quite quickly. And the near-future setting will, I suspect, date pretty fast - it's so near future that nothing seems to have changed except that murderers get an animal for life. The resolution, when it comes, is unsatisfying. There are some good scenes, however, and the gritty underworld is portrayed rather well. I'd be interested to read Beukes's first novel and would certainly check out her future work but this one was a disappointment.
The Sisters Brothers

by

This is a darkly comic western, detailing the progress of two killers sent to San Francisco, in the grip of the Gold Rush, to despatch an enemy of their employer. The prose is taut and compulsive and the narrative is often very funny and irreverent. As several people have pointed out, the tone and setting would make for a perfect Coen Brothers' movie. The novel really turns around the moral struggle that the narrator has with his profession, and the family ties that stop him acting on his misgivings. The first two-thirds of the novel had me grinning with delight, although the momentum trailed off somewhat in the final act - perhaps because the tragedy is foreshadowed so heavily in the earlier parts of the book. It is quick and very satisfying read though. With the proviso that I've read nothing else on the shortlist yet, this would be my pick for the Booker Prize.
The Dispatcher: A Novel

by

Really good crime novel. There is no mystery. You know exactly who is guilty and what will - what has to - happen. But it is still very tense. Jahn shifts the narrative focus chapter by chapter, alternating between the viewpoint of the kidnapper,the dispatcher and his kidnapped daughter. This is very effective and the novel builds a real momentum as the chase plays out. I was struck by how helpless, how ignorant the protagonists were made by the sheer size, emptiness and unknowability of the American landscape. That sense of isolation pervades the entire book. It is the poison in the land that was there before the central crime was committed and will still be there after its bloody resolution.
Necrophiliac, The

by

A short book about a necrophiliac, told in confessional diary form, that narrates a year in the love life of a man who desires only the dead. It is brilliantly done: alternately sweet, nauseating and blackly comic. The closest parallel is of course Lolita but the narrator here is less self-pitying and more empathetic towards his lovers. The relationships between the necrophiliac and his corpses are at the centre of the novel: he quarrels with them, worships them, reconciles with them and tries desperately to stave off their inevitable decay. The impossibility of that task of course dooms his every affair - but it doesn't stop the necrophiliac trying again and again. This is a book that raises questions about the contingency of desire (the narrator's first sexual encounter with the dead is at once moving and disgusting), the transience of love and importance of emotions that only flow one way. It is well worth reading. But probably not in public.
Liminal States

by

This is a terrible book. Overly long, portentous, badly written and humorless. ZP does seem to have done a great job with marketing, however, including a puff piece on Boing Boing, which is what convinced me to take a risk on it. There are also dozens of reviews on Amazon saying that the book is a flawless, genre-smashing masterpiece: I am very sceptical about where those reviews came from because Parsons is not even a competent writer . It's rare that I feel ripped off by a book, even when I don't enjoy it that much, but this was an exception.
Nostalgia for the Future: West Africa after the Cold War

by

Very interesting book about post-colonial Togo. The chapter on the visa lottery is fascinating - fantasies of escape to the USA have created an entire industry dedicated to gaming the system. At times the post-colonial and/or post-modern theorizing feels tacked on. The writing is pretty good for an anthropologist - although trying to explain the term 'affect' in normal language is a mistake because it just reveals how pointless Deleuze is (or was?).
scribd