RaveThe Sunday Times (UK)This is a chilling book ... fascinating and enraging ... Scull has written some eloquent books on the history of psychiatry, though they have previously had a tighter focus. Here, it is as though taking a panoramic view of the whole subject has brought home to him, finally and with considerable emotion, what a pitiful racket it has been. He struggles sometimes to keep an academic tone. And in the light of the evidence, who can blame him?
Michel Houellebecq, Trans. by Shaun Whiteside
PanThe Sunday Times (UK)However limited Houellebecq’s creative imagination, his novels have a journalistic knack of chiming with events, and there is a Frexity feel to much of Serotonin ... a second problem for Houellebecq: a lack of intellectual gravity. His idol, Albert Camus, provided a philosophical hinterland for his affectless characters; Houellebecq, by contrast, has never risked realising his themes. He prefers to offer a sketch and let the reader do the rest. It’s possible that he has what it takes to write a fully worked-out novel of ideas, but the life-denying stance of his regular protagonist is the default position of the author. Many great novels have a main character with a nihilistic world view, but to take the same nihilistic attitude towards your own text is dangerous ... The best thing about this novel is Shaun Whiteside’s translation into toneless, gliding English.
RaveThe Washington Post...an exhilarating narrative feat. The ease with which the author controls his frequently complex material is sometimes as thrilling to watch as the unfolding of the story itself ... This complicated story is masterfully controlled; the pace never slackens; the writing remains direct and clear ... By the end of the novel, the narrative stakes have been raised very high, yet on the three main questions, Powers delivers handsomely: Mysteries are resolved, answers satisfactorily given. For this concentration on plot, however, there remains a price to be paid in thematic richness. It is futile to complain that the riddle of human consciousness is not fully explained; Powers illuminates it as far as current science permits and dramatizes his findings with a novelist's concern for character. Yet the resolution of the Capgras issue, realistic though it is, does not pull its weight emotionally, and the end of the mystery-note story does not reverberate as much as it might.This certainly should not dim one's admiration for Powers's boldness. He is a formidable talent, and this is a lucid, fiercely entertaining novel—which, incidentally, with the inevitable loss of intellectual richness, would make a terrific movie.