Synopses & Reviews
JJ O’ Malley, adopted from a Romanian orphanage by a single father in the west of Ireland, grows up a permanent outsider, and yet he finds his place in the community. At least until his world is shaken by the death of his best friend, and he volunteers for the “Somnos Project,” an experimental program testing deep coma as a potential option in the EU penal system.
In a prison ship docked in Killary Harbour, JJ is hooked up to monitoring devices that feed out to the Internet, and he and his fellow guinea pigs become global celebrities. A beautifully rendered look at small-town Irish life, and a far-reaching investigation of politics, neuroscience, global communications, and the ethics of incarceration, Notes from a Coma is a major work from one of the world’s bravest and most unusual novelists.
"Perpetually luckless Irishman JJ O'Malley unexpectedly becomes an international celebrity when he volunteers for the 'Somnos Project', a 'penal experiment' to conduct research on the use of 'deep coma as a future option in the EU prison system.' O'Malley, since he lacks a prison record, serves as the experiment's control, joining four convicted men hooked up to monitors on a ship docked in the harbor of Killary in western Ireland, an inlet 'suffused with ineffable sadness.' Irish novelist McCormack (Getting it in the Head) employs the perspectives of five pivotal characters to recount O'Malley's life. An adoptee raised by a single father in rural Ireland, he's potentially a genius, yet sees himself untethered in the universe. After a tragic incident, O'Malley volunteers for the project and his loved ones struggle to understand his decision and the events that led to it. McCormack's substantial footnotes run in parallel to the narrative, serving as a primer on the nature of the experiment and helping progress the story in the present while the characters' accounts shed light on the subject's past. Subtle but haunting storytelling mixes with an insightful examination into the ethics of the penal system to produce an unusual and unforgettable read. (Mar.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Mike McCormack has published a collection of short stories, Getting It In the Head, and a novel, Crowe's Requiem. In 1996, McCormack was awarded the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature. In 1998, Getting it in the Head was voted a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. A story from the collection, "The Terms," was adapted into an award-winning short film.