Satin Island by Tom McCarthy

Forged from a technobabble portmanteau of modern jargon buzzwords comes this novel with a narrative that muscles in with a highly linguistic style. It is both enthralling and enraging. I was compelled to read it whilst despairing of its conceits. I remain unconvinced that the author is not simply toying with his readers, leading them on in the belief that his work is a fresh approach, an antidote for his perceived notion that literature is in need of some new form, some literary force that thrusts the art back onto an explosive trajectory as though it were literatures answer to ‘Brit Art.’  I think it has more to do with Dada or possibly Surrealism but that’s just my jaundiced opinion. Is he the new J.G. Ballard or a pen pal of Will Self’s? Perhaps both. He certainly has a sense of humour that’s as subtle as French mustard. The more I read the more I liked author and prose. More importantly did I enjoy it? The answer is an emphatic yes.

I think what I like about Tom McCarty is his wry sense of humour. I feel it is as if he is teasing us all. There is a strong sense of his not being best pleased with contemporary literature and by that I mean the conventional dry rot of same-old-same-old gritty crime thriller. Not that there is anything wrong with that genre apart from the world and his wife jumping on the bandwagon and making like Stieg Larsson. No, Tom McCarthy reveals in his work a sense of adventure; an attachment to creating fiction that stretches the boundaries as well as the imagination.

U is the central protagonist, a man who apparently is an ‘anthropologist’. U spends his time researching for a big project he has to produce for an elite consultancy. The world he lives in, close to our own time, perhaps a little in the future, is one where bullshit truly baffles brains. So much so that the corporate world designs our thinking by decoding information the better to manipulate our desires.  Much of the story has a feel of repetition running through it as though it were a song by The Fall. Again and again, just as the tale takes us down unknown avenues, so we are pulled up and returned to a reoccurring theme. Madison, his lover, his fuck-buddy; the parachutists; oil spills.

The familiar world we live in is thrown at us with a twist, a curve ball spinning, coruscating half-truths that present a set of unpleasant possibilities, a future reference that is as oblique as it is vague as it is terrifying.

I have no idea whether or not this Booker Prize shortlisted novel will make it to the number one spot. It would be glorious if it did. It has all the hallmarks of a better-than-the-rest work. We will have to wait and see. For me there is no question of doubt. I enjoyed this in ways that intrigued and excited me. This is my book of the year.

 

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