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The Comaby Alex Garland
In The Coma, Alex Garland (author of The Beach and the film 28 Days Later) crafts a gripping novella that blurs the distinction between dreams and reality. The Coma has a menacing undertow that will resonate long after you've finished reading it.
"[The Coma] is a novel of ideas, focused, emotionally chaste, and produced for the most part in a tone spare to the point of anality. This leads to a curious effect, a terse simplicity rather frightening in the world of padded-up books, which makes the reader want to look away, as if from some public action too transparent, too human. Wait a minute, you want to say: narrative is usually more dissembled than this; and at its best such simplicity suggests a direction all narrative might explore. At its worst, we get the sense that Garland has not only worked himself into a box, but he wants the reader in there with him." M. John Harrison, The Times Literary Supplement (read the entire Times Literary Supplement review)
Synopses & Reviews
Proclaimed "a gifted storyteller" by The New Yorker and "a huge literary talent" by Kazuo Ishiguro, Alex Garland, the internationally bestselling author of The Beach, The Tesseract, and writer of the critically acclaimed film 28 Days Later, returns with yet another gripping page-turner that blurs the edges of reality and probes the boundaries of consciousness. A man is attacked on the Underground and awakens to find himself in a hospital, apparently having emerged from a coma. Or has he? Garland's brilliant tale is illustrated with forty haunting woodblock print illustrations by his father, Nicholas Garland, a well-known political cartoonist for the Daily Telegraph (UK) and noted artist.
"In the latest novel by the bestselling author of the Generation X thriller The Beach, a young man who fell into a coma after being assaulted on the London Underground tries to piece his life back together. Shuttling in dreamlike fashion between his hospital bed and a hazy succession of places — his apartment, friends' houses, a record shop, a bookshop, his childhood home, a shrine — he sifts through conflicting memories of his past and unanswerable questions about his present. The novel reaches for Kafkaesque ambiguity — is the narrator awake or in a dream? did he ever come out of the coma? is there a difference between ourselves and our fantasies? — but Garland's parable feels more like an exercise than a true exploration, constricted by its sluggish pace and plodding prose ('I stood. I raised a hand. I said, 'Hey' '). Forty woodblock illustrations by the author's father, Sir Nicholas Garland, a political cartoonist and artist, are handsome but function as little more than filler. By the end of the story, with the narrator unable to tell the difference between reality and fantasy, he finally decides, 'None of it was real. I didn't care.' Chances are good the reader will feel the same way. Agent, Robin Straus. Author tour. (July 6)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Much like a dream itself: a novel that eludes definition, makes little sense, and is quickly erased from memory." Kirkus Reviews
"Alex Garland is a natural born storyteller." Washington Post
"Alex Garland...has a clear, engaging storytelling style and a vivid imagination." The New York Times Book Review
"Thanks to Garland's lucid prose, the book is perfectly readable, but it is ultimately static and unsatisfying as a story and disappointingly slight as a metaphysical meditation." Michiko Katutani, The New York Times
"[A] brief but unputdownable summer read....[A] dark and sometimes terrifying story that derives its somber beauty from the directness and precision of Garland's writing." Scott Lamb, Salon.com
The new novel from the award-winning, international bestselling author of The Beach and the film, 28 Days Later--now in trade paperback.
When Carl awakens from a coma after being attacked on a subway train, life around him feels unfamiliar, even strange. He arrives at his best friend's house without remembering how he got there; he seems to be having an affair with his secretary, which is pleasant but surprising. He starts to notice distortions in his experience, strange leaps in his perception of time. Is he truly reacting with the outside world, he wonders, or might he be terribly mistaken? So begins a dark psychological drama that raises questions about the the human psyche, dream versus reality, and the boundaries of consciousness. As Carl grapples with his predicament, Alex Garland - author of The Beach and the screenplay for 28 Days Later, plays with conventions and questions our assumptions about the way we exist in the world, even as it draws us into the unsettling and haunting book about a lost suitcase and a forgotten identity.
After being attacked on the Underground, Carl awakens from a coma to a life that seems strange and unfamiliar. He arrives at his friends' house without knowing how he got there. Nor do they. He seems to be having an affair with his secretary which is exciting, but unlikely. Further unsettled by leaps in logic and time, Carl wonders if he's actually reacting to the outside world, or if he's terribly mistaken. So begins a psychological adventure that stretches the boundaries of conciousness.
About the Author
Alex Garland was born in London, England, in 1970, where he still lives, to a highly respected family. His father, Nicholas Garland, is a well-known political cartoonist and artist, his mother is a prominent psychotherapist, and his grandfather was a Nobel-prize winning biologist. In 1987 he went to India on a six week trip to Kashmir and Ladahk. After leaving school, he spent six months in Southeast Asia, and he has returned every year since, most frequently to the Philippines.
In 1992, Garland received a B.A. in History of Art at Manchester University in England. He occasionally works as an illustrator and freelance journalist. He started writing fiction not out of compulsion, but as an anxious response to the careers that his friends were carving out for themselves.
Garland is the author of the bestselling generational classic The Beach, winner of the Betty Trask Award, and of The Tesseract, a national bestseller and New York Times Notable Book. He also wrote the original screenplay of the recent critically acclaimed film 28 Days Later, directed by Danny Boyle.
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