PositiveThe Guardian... slice him where you like, Ian McEwan is a damned good writer ... you just don\'t want to stop reading it, even when he\'s writing about musical composition, or the difficult characters and bad behaviour of \'creative\' people ... There is a distinct whiff of Evelyn Waugh in this book, not only in its style but in its subject matter ... The larger ethical issue of voluntary euthanasia, which ripples beneath the surface and gives the novella its title, is eventually dodged except for supplying the final twist. Which is a little corny but is a way of telling us not to take it too seriously.
RaveThe GuardianThe book\'s honesty is both fueled and exemplified by [Solomon\'s] accounts of his own major depressive episodes, which are by no means self-indulgent but allow fellow-sufferers to know they are not alone, and allow non-sufferers to gain some idea of the agony of the condition ... This, to my knowledge, is now the definitive lay text on the subject. Solomon charts the history, the science, and even the philosophy of depression with an industry and thoroughness that must have been hell for him to achieve ... as Solomon himself says at one point, those who read The Noonday Demon carefully will learn how to be depressed. But that\'s no reason not to read it. Knowledge, in this instance, is most certainly power.
RaveThe GuardianI did at first fear the worst excesses of magic realism, which can be like playing with a child who changes the rules every few seconds, but it soon becomes clear that there’s a consistency to her imagination … Dolls, sewing machines, pregnancy, incontinence and a kind of archaeological culture pop up from time to time: by that I mean threadbare survivors of an older time … That I cannot say what all these stories are about is a testament to their worth. They have been haunting me for days now. They have their own, highly distinct flavour, and the inevitability of uncomfortable dreams.
Michel Houellebecq, Trans. by Frank Wynne
PositiveThe GuardianThis is a bold and unsettling portrait of a society falling apart: the rage that both left and right, the piously religious as well as the humanists, have expressed towards Houellebecq is pretty much the rage of Caliban seeing his face in the glass. There is not too much doubt that Houellebecq is an unpleasant person. (We're no slouches in this regard, but France has a gift for producing nasty writers.) One does not want to examine his ideas on race too deeply, just yet. I would get this and read it before that particular time bomb explodes.
PositiveThe GuardianWe are in a weird world indeed, not just because it is populated by ogres, sprites, demons and dragons, but also because Ishiguro puts a fog over the narrative, littering it with elisions, false turns and feints that make us doubt what we have read ... The dialogue is uniformly archaic, leaden almost ('I wish it right enough, sir,' etc), as if a distinctive voice would itself be anachronistic ... That may be too specific, but the book can be applied to our own times. It turns out that the collective amnesia of the dragon’s breath may have a more benign purpose than we first thought.
RaveThe GuardianThe story, such as it is, is narrated by one Max Morden (not quite, we are told quite late on, the name he was christened with), a widowed art historian, who is returning to a seaside boarding-house he once knew as a child on the cusp of adolescence. He has arrived there in order to deal with, in some roundabout way, the death of his wife from cancer. But the reason he lodges at Miss Vavasour's comically moribund guest-house is also because, when he was young, Something Happened there, and the novel only reveals what that was at the end … This is not so much a novel about memory as an examination of what it is to have a memory at all, to have had experiences that seem to be on the brink of slipping away.
MixedThe GuardianHis [Neil Gaiman] tone of voice is readily identifiable. It’s the careful expository tone of a tale told to children, of a good, scary story that will keep them listening ... That, I think, is very good, even if it does not quite bear sustained scrutiny (you still have to walk around Horror on your own, surely?); and it also shows how adept he is at delivering scripts to be drawn up by artists ... This book is an excellent way of getting a purchase on the man who could be said to have almost single-handedly revived the comic genre, or made it respectable. It is also a great way of learning about the history of comics, science fiction and fantasy ... He is charming, enthusiastic, full of wonder. He is, at heart, the best kind of child reader: an adventurous one, and one willing to learn.