Shiny shiny

7 11 2015

Satin Island by Tom McCarthy

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From the Guardian review

The novel’s first-person narrator, known simply as U (we don’t find out Y), is a consultant ethnographer retained by an influential organisation to gather data in the furtherance of a multi-tentacled project to gain some strategic, unbreakable stranglehold on the world. The how or why of this isn’t entirely clear, not even to U, as he jets off to international conferences or busies himself in his basement office identifying memes and overarching rhetorical behaviours, casting his anthropologist’s eye over breakfast cereals, rollerblading, oil spills, the mysterious deaths of skydivers.

There follows dense babble from the narratives of cultural theory, technology, tribal lores and so on, from which U must compile a Great Report that will unlock the underlying codes that govern our age. No wellspring of learning is left unfathomed, while the commonest observation – a shoe buckle, the buffering circle on a computer screen – is liable to trigger a poststructural disquisition on time and memory, or a lesson on how iodine or ventilation systems work.

Unfortunately this all makes for a really rather dull read. It’s clever but ultimately unsatisfying and leaves you with an empty feeling at the end. Despite its Booker shortlist status this really is one to avoid.

2 star

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