From the internationally-known author of The Beach, a gripping mystery and stylistic tour de force that delves into the subconscious mind, with brilliantly disturbing results. A young man is brutally assaulted late at night in an underground train by a gang of thugs. Beaten unconscious, he lies for days in a hospital bed - but appears to make a full recovery. On discharge from hospital, Carl picks up the threads of his daily life, visiting friends, seeing his girlfriend - until he starts to notice strange leaps in his perception of time, distortions in his experience. Is he truly reacting with the outside world, or might he be terribly mistaken? So begins a dark psychological drama that raises profound questions about the boundary between the real and the imagined.
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Alex Garland is the author of the best-selling novels The Beach and The Tesseract. In 2003 he wrote the screenplay for Danny Boyle's hugely successful 28 Days Later.From Publishers Weekly:
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.
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