The boiling wit of Amsterdam won't be everyone's cup of tea, but those thirsty for satire will gulp down this little book ... McEwan writes the sort of scathing retorts and witty repartee we wish we could think of in the heat of battle. On a broader scale, his portrayal of the symbiotic relationship between politicians and journalists is as damning as it is comic ... This is a dark morality tale in the spirit of Evelyn Waugh's best work.
... an intricate satirical jeu d’esprit and topical to the point of Tom Wolfeishness. It is also funnier than anything McEwan has written before, though just as lethal ... a thriller as well as a farce, with a plot whose extreme convolution and plethora of unlikely coincidences reads as a sendup of the thriller genre ... McEwan is among the most idiosyncratic of British novelists, even if he doesn’t seem interested in experimental writing. His prose is precise and revelatory, and whatever he writes about comes up fresh, luminous, and surprising, like a familiar painting recently cleaned ... The contrast between McEwan’s superclean prose and lay-preacher stance on the one hand, and his steamy, ghoulish, tender, sometimes even mawkish subject matter and moods on the other, make him dangerously attractive and repellent at the same time.
Ian McEwan writes like no one else. As his newest novel Amsterdam shows, McEwan holds few peers ... Amazingly lucid prose aside, the power of Amsterdam lies in McEwan's devilishly clever narrative plan. He somehow manages to draw suspense out of two men's professional and personnel breakdowns, revealing a twisted horror story lurking underneath a tale seemingly meant to address undying friendship and love ... By utilizing alternating chapters and dueling points of view, McEwan develops his study in friendship into a dark psychological portrait of descent. There is true genius not only in McEwan's plan for Clive's and Vernon's stories but also in their relationship to each other and to the plot ... McEwan's adroitness at characterization and his deftness at dialogue show through these astounding chapter-length psychological studies. As author, he handles the transitions between his two characters' view points with astounding stylistic assurance ... All in all, this relatively short novel supports great writing with a masterful narrative design.
... there are plenty of complaints to make about a plot that moves forward with all the subtlety and grace of an England rugby scrum ... There are also characters dumped into strategic positions throughout the book who have no life beyond their role in the plot ... everyone else is equally spectral. There is nothing to grasp in any of them ... Sentence by sentence [McEwan] is a fine craftsman. Even in a book as awful as Amsterdam there are moments of pleasure ... The slightness of characterisation, the over-the-top prose, the obtrusiveness of the plotting and the idiocy of the premise might be more easy to forgive as sacrifices made in the service of comedy...The trouble is, that there are no laughs ... The only really laughable thing is the fact that Amsterdam won the Booker Prize when it so clearly didn't deserve it, but that too leaves a sour taste.
... a dark tour de force, a morality fable, disguised as a psychological thriller ... A chilling little horror story, easily read in one enjoyable gulp, Amsterdam is by no means McEwan's finest work: It is less ambitious than Enduring Love (1998) and Black Dogs (1992), and less resonant than The Innocent. One can only hope that this small, perfectly fashioned novel -- novella, really -- will send readers back to the rest of the talented McEwan's oeuvre ... Writing in his usual spare, evocative prose, McEwan deftly conjures up the glittering London world Clive and Vernon inhabit ... there are the simple pleasures of reading a writer in complete command of his craft, a writer who has managed to toss off this minor entertainment with such authority and aplomb that it has won him the recognition he has so long deserved.
... 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.
This mockery of artistic ambition complements the relatively slight nature of the book, which is unashamedly a five-finger exercise in comparison to the aspirations of some of McEwan’s earlier work...There is something rather comfortable about it, which extends to the satire ... a consummately well-orchestrated performance, and the feel of a major artist operating at something less than full blast gives it a smoothness and a sense of capacity in reserve.
... a well-oiled machine, and McEwan's pleasure in time-shifting, presenting events out of their temporal order is everywhere evident ... If such narrative happenings are too neat to be true, if the dispatching of characters and the tying-up of ends in the book's final chapters constitute striking effects rather than moral exploration and understanding, they are no less entertaining for that -- entertaining in the mode of earlier nasty British satirists like Evelyn Waugh and Kingsley Amis.
McEwan wants to despise Clive, but he devotes the novel's loveliest and most fascinating pages to the creation of that symphony ... But McEwan doesn't want to be Clive, whose selfishness appalls him. So he has skewed the book toward the malignant and even the nihilistic. He isn't content just to expose Clive and Vernon, he has to reduce them to beasts; and in its final, ugly and cynical pages, the novel goes haywire and ceases to be convincing ... a plotty book -- a tragedy with the heartless logic of a farce ... When his puppets came unexpectedly alive, more complicated and more sympathetic than he had planned for, he forced them into his machinery anyway, and they jammed it ... McEwan is an aesthete like Clive, seduced by the beauties of symmetry, and he's undone, in the end, by his own exquisite craftsmanship: Instead of betraying his structure, he betrays his book.
The story is not broad but deep, plunging the reader into the ice water of somebody else’s calamity; and the somebody is an expert whose specialty colors his telling of the story ... Through deft references to the new Europe, McEwan makes this centerless kind of friendship seem analogous to the European Union, an alliance born of convenience and self-interest rather than principle or defense against a common enemy ... Satire overwhelms realism, plot outruns character and theme reducing Amsterdam to little more than a higher airplane read ... winds up unsettled rather than unsettling. Let’s hope that Amsterdam isn’t the model for the Euro-novel of the future, for it is a book in a tremendous hurry to get where it is going— but one with no real destination.
Ian McEwan wields a pen deftly. He writes simply, yet expresses himself well. His books are true page turners, as the reader is drawn in by McEwan's style. Regrettably ambition too often gets the better of him as he foists unlikely or even absurd plots on this fine framework of well-wrought writing ... yet again McEwan has found a story that is too much for him ... It is an ending that is astonishingly bad, and not even McEwan seems fully convinced of what he is doing ... It is a slight book, and most of it is fun to read. For those who are satisfied with endings that see justice done and round off a book, regardless of how ridiculous the means employed to do so are, it is a decent enough book. (Readers who have previously enjoyed McEwan's books and did not mind similar absurd plotlines, as in Enduring Love, should also enjoy this.) We wish McEwan would not try so hard, sticking to his talents and not losing them in absurd and oversimplified plotlines.
As swift as a lethal bullet and as timely as current headlines, McEwan's Booker Prize-winning novel is a mordantly clever--but ultimately too clever for its own good--exploration of ethical issues ... McEwan spins these plot developments with smooth alacrity and with acidulous wit, especially focused on the way shallow and mediocre people can occupy positions of power and esteem ... His ability to sculpt a scene with such arresting visual detail that it assumes a physical dimension for the reader ... But when, in the last third of the book, McEwan manipulates the plot to achieve a less than credible symmetry, it is obvious that, despite the Booker recognition, this is far from McEwan's best novel. That said, however, it will undoubtedly hit the bestseller charts, for McEwan, even when not quite at the top of his form, is a writer of compelling gifts.
... a smartly written tale that devolves slowly into tricks and soapy vapors ... The daily lives of these three high-profilers are nothing if not interesting in the capable hands of McEwan, who shows himself more than plentifully knowledgeable in the details of journalism and music ... o things progress via trick, counter-trick, and backfire, in a novelistic try for a big ending that just gets littler instead. Middle-brow fiction British style, strong on the surface, vapid at the center.