Tuesday, August 20, 2019

A Blast of Hunters – David Rix

26 thoughts on “A Blast of Hunters – David Rix

  1. —> Page 26
    “Art always find a way.”
    An amazingly engaging start to this novel, not very surprised, but also very surprised, if that makes sense, as I follow the narrator, amid the perfect wordings for a benighted wandering London, and the narrator’s attempts to lay the narrator’s head under a train’s metal wheels, giant metal wheels, in a forbidden raw corridor of London, a corridor bespoke for such trains, then accidentally rescued by a woman, up to no good, perhaps, in the same forbidden corridors, the colour of her clothes turning out later to be deceptive, when fully seen, when the narrator sees them upon waking from a long sleep under the housing or arch of a sea wall or railway (with severe housing shortages, I am told, making people in these days camp on a Heathrow runway!), or a Soak or whatever, in the limehouse= fenchurch= cannon= shadwell lands, in which lands I used to wander randomly in the early 1970s, when I was NOT visiting St Paul’s, that is. The narrator is later about to be introduced to the ‘others’. Before reading any more, and not yet knowing anything about this novel other than what I have already read, I will link — as a wild guess at a chance mutual-synergy — to my previous real-time review of a Doris Lessing novel here.
  2. From my erstwhile review of that Lessing novel: “…a scene at the end of this section that has affected my guts more than any other book has ever done in my long reading life, and unlike Alice, I have read many books and don’t pretend I’ve read them, books that harbour their own guts for words to slew in their metabowls.” (sic)
    Except my guts have now happily been reconstituted…
    —> Page 39
    “It tasted nice.”
    A sense of Xan Brooks, too. But this Rix mix is unique … so far. And I am indeed entranced by the Picasso (collective noun I just coined) of four nicknamed characters whom our socially-ill-at-ease, arse-ends-of-buildings-and-backstreets-wandering-surveyor, once suicidal (still is?) NARRATOR meets in an urban clearing or viaduct/archway shelter/abode where some of us readers may feel we have gathered to watch a near open-air theatrical. And we have indeed done so. What ‘forbidden’ food as a pink prop is brought out by the others to cook so as to welcome our narrator (despite some of their suspicions) is indeed a coup-de-théatre. Some studied tentative gestalt-forming, on my part, as I soak in the nature of this genius-loci where this commune (?) has its ethos in a gathering world that I have not yet gathered, through the eyes, of course, of our very interesting narrator. A general scene beautifully conjured, with sporadic well-honed constructs of prose worthy of books on ethics.
  3. —> Page 49
    “What does blue sound like? What colour is someone sobbing? I might compare it to certain fruit, with a quiet subtle flavour that contains great depth.”
    The nature of food’s flavour and texture is one startling thing about this book so far, but also the maze of under-urbs and salad-like chickweed, too. As we follow the narrator whom I shall call Train Man for the moment, as he departs perhaps temporarily from those he has just met in an archway near Limehouse Cut, a wanderer on foot, if not food, and by train, a wanderer by faith. A new Iain Sinclair or Moorcock. Or a refreshingly baser Ackroyd. I am LIVING this book by its vicarious art. So will you, I trust, as the type of person who reads my reviews. This book I have seen mentioned as the author’s first novel, which implies it’s an earlier pre-Brexit novel prior to later novels, yet it seems to have already recognised the endemic RAGE of London, our polarised world and its mazes. The rage lands, whereby we judge human values by many things, such as sea level, mushroom-disguised blades and adventurous urban decay. We all feel the endemic rage wherever we are. The wingnuts, et al. Still, MY first novel was my last novel.
    “— I like travelling and watching — I like knowing London. It’s my thing,…”
  4. —> Page 66
    “How can you burn a bike?”
    There’s so much to quote here, but as a reviewer you have to be abstemious. There is also an ‘elephant in the room’ (my use of this expression) about this book, one concerned with something tasting nice, and if you followed that link directly above this entry, you might reach some sort of plot spoiler about it there, if you are not too careful. The elephant in the room is bound to come out in my review, anyway, sooner or later, I guess. “Regardless of leanings, food always seems to excite strong opinions.” Meanwhile, the chapter headings in this book are unfolding days of the week. Another Book of Days. And with the Train Man back in his capsule room in a house share somewhere in London near where we were before, no doubt, I am (un)surprisingly beginning to become even more impressed with this novel. Seriously so. It should be on the shelves. Judging by it so far. I really do get a strong picture of where he lives, his house mates, the society around of housing shortages and that ‘elephant in the room’, and what is on Tv, and his crush on the Slovenian woman called Tea (if I recall correctly) whose bike is mentioned above. Involuntary surgery in some video report he watches. Cramps in his bowels – from what tasted nice yesterday? And so much more. And two quotes I cannot resist:
    “It seems a fundamental flaw in the human animal that suicide should be so hard when as a culture we make sure that it is inevitable.”
    “One of the basic rules of life: always live with people slightly messier than yourself.”
  5. —> Page 83
    You reach a point in a book when you feel the utmost confidence in it, as I have now already felt with this novel, the prose style, the build up of characters, the genius loci, the ethos, and here a sense of what sort of world, alternate or not, I may be dealing with. My own world does not exist, and this book’s world does, during the reading of it. And sometimes afterwards, too!
    I hope to continue real-time reviewing it, as well as reading it. I am one of its hunters now. One of its hawlers.
    • So far, it’s like entering a version of Antonioni’s Red Desert one inimical moment but something far more amenable the next moment. The concept of potential suicide as a liberating force, somewhere between the two.
  6. —> Page 100
    “In this part of the city, canals and rivers twined like lovers through the marshes and it took all my mapping skills to know which was which.”
    This is in mutual synergy with Lee Rourke, complete with similar sporadic “…” interpolations. More or Lessing. One who enjoys Rourke fiction will enjoy this Rix novel. And vice versa. Meanwhile, there is also incredible stuff in the Rix that I DARE not tell you about in case you SNARE me for reading it and disseminating it here! Yet, disarmingly, I am with it. I can even empathise with the inchoate rage of one of the characters, rage that is unfocused like many people who have raw emotions. Even viscerally naïve ones as displayed here. I empathise, too, with Train Man’s reaction to being comfortingly hugged by each of two women on two separate occasions. Also his seeming inability to nurture his own rage, finding it hard even to be angry. And the theatricality that I identified earlier is now satisfyingly made more explicit towards the end of this section of pages. These five characters really live. I am sure the novel may not be as expected. It is something lateral to something else I have not yet quite identified. The King’s, not the Queen’s, hat, notwithstanding?
    “What the hell was all that even about?”
  7. —> Page 108
    “The age-old desperation for a simple solution — something nicely black or white that we can all comfortably blame — even though that never exists either. Or conversely something we can imagine is perfect, when it’s actually meaningless.”
    Today’s increasing rage of polarities, prophesied when this novel was first written. I get the impression it was written longer ago that I originally assumed. Curating clothes, “performance art”, and even mention of David Attenborough. The Socratic dialogues between the characters here are nicely madcap. Make some sense, too! I can’t help thinking of Xan Brooks as well as the other cross-references above. I don’t know why! Rosanne Rabinowitz, too. And the stewpot at the end of this section of pages, reminds me of Alice’s stewpot in ‘The Good Terrorist’. Whatever I say about these cross-references, I am sure of one thing: BLAST is UNIQUE!
  8. —> Page 138
    “I traced my finger from my nose, to Tea’s eyes, then in a graceful arc towards the computer that was blaring out this racket and mimed a sharp explosion.”
    …as if Train Man, the narrator, is measuring…and a bit like how this book has erupted as a process in my mind, so far. I have gathered how counterproductive would be reporting to you exactly how I am learning about Train Man (his social unease, his thoughts, oblique desires etc) and about this London within which he lives, because, like me, you need to encounter some pretty remarkable, but truly believable, habits and events and items as they unfold in the book, and my telling you beforehand about them risk altering the reading journey itself. Rest assured, this book so far is elegant in style if not always in what the style describes — compelling, too, startling, page-turning, with concepts galore, conceits, names for certain things, sound and silence mixed, visualised speculations that are inexplicable but you know they CAN and probably will be explained. Sexual mœurs seemingly formalised. Things that are only one audit trail’s single step away from our own reality’s audit trail, but that step, I suggest, is really a giant leap. And if this novel has been hiding away somewhere before now, one needs to loudly ask WHY?! Meanwhile, this particular section is of a young person’s urban house party in the house where Train Man lives, mainly held in Tea’s flat (Tea, wearing her eyepatch that later gains some traction of explanation) but also partying on the roof, too…
    “People are people. People interact — always have done, always will, within the realms of possibility.”
  9. —> Page 158
    “Just a jumble of verticals and horizontals in various shades of brown.”
    From now on, take it as read, what I have already said about this book’s general compelling assets of readability. I can’t keep repeating it. Meanwhile, you won’t forget, in this section of pages, Train Man’s alarm clock diatribe, and his views on the work /art balance, the sinister cuteness of cats, pizza boxes as illegal structures, and others’ views on illegal substances and not just drugs, fulminating on the housing crisis, the fridge door in the fridge’s back, the measuring signs between Train Man and fellow tenant Tea (the latter being a perfect name for a woman in a QSC fiction, I guess, as well as in a Rix one), and Train Man, during the next day’s aftermath of last night’s party, meeting up on the roof with a girl called Feather whom he had met earlier there, and, for me, she sets, by her talk, this book into a new startling gear! No point in my telling anyone about it. It is all in the book for people to read. I would, however, just remind myself of Tea’s earlier throwaway line about setting her boyfriends on fire, and then introducing us to a boy friend with sideburns! (I say ‘us’, because Train Man as narrator has already encompassed each reader by conniving with each reader.) And, oh yes, Tea and this boy friend are trying to measure each other’s shapes while still being in the early stages of an intimate relationship, a relationship that no doubt started with a BANG! If not a blast. Just one gripe, a shed on the roof? (You know the one, the shed with a bag of animal bones in it leading to someone’s misuse of the word ‘cannibal’). Well, the first hefty gale would surely have removed such a shed?
    “There are enough problems in the world without deliberate mysteries.”
  10. —> Page 176
    “I liked these forgotten places in the city; I liked venturing into the private places on the other side of gates—“
    These forgotten or not yet noticed places of literature, I like venturing, too. And I don’t think I am exaggerating when saying this book is increasingly turning out to be its own such inbuilt city of words: the optimum such reading-venture, paradoxically the pessimum, too. Riven with housing crisis politics, yet somehow not didactic. There is something going on here beyond didacticism. Something mathematical, something graffiti- or art-orientated, something transgressive, enclave-engendered or alien, with, say, a mention of many thoughts and visions that seem part of a Jungian collective unconscious being revealed — for example a mere mention of a Crying Room that I seem to have encountered before. Each time I pick this book up, I think to myself that I shall be on a plateau of good reading, good writing, a plateau that I have already reached, only for it again to reach new levels I could not have anticipated. Here I follow Train Man, accompanying Feather, into her world. A new commune or enclave to match the earlier City Hunters at the sea wall. Now an ostensible mail dump. With corners like shrines. A book that is quickly becoming its own (what I earlier identified) performance art. Beanbags et al. Clear and impenetrable as “the disconnects of the world” or the gestalt I ever seek, scavenging for gems of expression, cross-references with angles against the backdrop of London’s new landmarks. Being spooked, maybe, but also ready to explore the city further or get back to old places, any spookiness to be transcended. Another personal cross-reference in this review would be an obliquely connective one, i.e. my recent triangulation of Middle England. “Be ready”, other tags and pieces available. We need to polyangulate all viewpoints. The biker, the walker, the train-traveller, even the car driver. And those supine in makeshift corners or boxes. Some nearly dead. I am currently all of those things at various times. Ah, not a biker, though. Not since I was a boy.
    “It felt as though performances were being put on all around with every action fractionally unreal. […] These were all classic dramas of the city night…”
  11. —> Page 208
    “a noticeable blast of heat”
    Sea Wall time again, yet one more ratchet up from yesterday’s level, a hot night, following the ‘Face of Twilight’ at the tail end of the previous section (“Red lights. Gossamer threads of light. Faces. Vertices.”), Mark Samuels blended with Lee Rourke and others, with canals, railtracks, and secret concrete boxes or chasms that make both suspicion/timidity and expansive adventure bedfellows, plus Canary Wharf’s “glittering towers”, and the surrounding psychogeography, Train Man’s lack of bodily confidence (“unfit blob”), unfit but unfat, when he is faced with an accretive eroticism in that twilight, a twilight now a night of mud-wallowing and magical madness, here amid the “green to orange” and nakedness of a special night, with two other explicit “blasts” yet to sound out in this section of pages, one a blast of a “bomb” with riots and the other a “blast of emotion”, prior to sight of London’s last scheduled red bus, the last ever? A world drifting sideways into dreams within dreams within dreams. Like the power of a slowly moving train in the night, a power strangely greater than that of a fast train. Stealth travel. Scars on bare skin that told stories…
    “—an over-arching structure simultaneously supporting and binding this world we live in, on some level fictitious, on some level not at all. Lines and angles filled with tension and glowing an impossible red beneath the cityscape. Permitting it to exist . . .” (the book’s ellipsis, not mine.)
  12. —> Page 232
    “—and after a few complex seconds.”
    The new normal. The mocking and raging infecting us all from the internet — as if aliens were/are using WiFi to take us over? … my latter pondering inspired by this book, not necessarily the book’s own pondering. The London Madness. This book does indeed have something special, a genuinely professional writerly quality underpinning its bitingly fell transgressions, over and under bites, those bones in the roof shed again, and things I can’t tell you for fear of spoilers. I will tell you, though, of the highly believable rage scene between housemates, those people trapped in their own little boxes when they get together. And there is the most beautifully written description of Train Man reading a book aloud to someone. This book has moments like this, arguably gratuitous, but perfectly woven into its patterns. And a wounded Tea that needs more than just a plaster. And, oh yes, this reminds me about the Canary blasters, the concept of biking things mass-communally is a very striking image. You will know what I mean when you read it. More than just a good terrorism à la Lessing…
  13. —> Page 246
    “Aren’t we all just a little bit mad? Aren’t we all just telling our own stories on the substrate of an unknowable world?”
    A section of half dream, half reality, yet even dreams that tail off are indeed real in themselves, even those communal dreams of flesh. A continuing evocative vision of colours, angles, possible alien/human-oppressor imposition by dint of something ineffable that this book touches upon, including the oppression of the underclass, arty or not. Imbued with the reality of London, its impending omens of strife that we feel even stronger today wherever we live in the land. But there has turned out to be at least one more red bus, after the night’s cobweb of red lasers, a bus with electronic ticket bleeps, that Train Man boards with feathery Feather, whereby they discuss underground life, beyond all our mail dumps and measurements. Our measurements and those of others.
    “My head was swimming trying to find a catch…”
    Two coincidences –
    half an hour ago, I was writing about things swimming in my brain with regard to ‘Blamol’ here – and last night I was discussing with my son the various shades of black with regard to the pixels on my television. Well, my son was telling me things about it, rather than it being a proper discussion! As Train Man also does today in this section!
    – “the colour of that black shape”
  14. —> Page 273
    “If London was indeed an orchestra, then we were slowly building up from an eerie quiet with the occasional sharp phrases from the woodwind through to some serious brass eruptions — demonic fanfares and dissonant trombones.”
    Eruptions, or blasts. That is at the beginning of this section. Not always Penderecki, though, but rather John Cage’s 4’ 33” mentioned towards the end of this section (also the title of the world’s first blank story as published in Nemonymous 2002, proving there is no such thing as nothing) – silence as shades of black or white? – and this mighty section is some sort of grown-ups’ Lord of the Flies performance, but one that takes acting towards a reality of impulse, when the mask or masque becomes you, and vice versa. Hide & Seek and Catch, fun amid chaos transcended, sometimes traumatised. On the brink of danger attuned to the London Madness. With Train Man’s learnt confusion of sex. Now a polar bear. All here compared to painting (Delvaux) as well as the above music, and ‘a surreal movie.’ I myself mentioned Picasso earlier. This is a mighty section of the book, one with these growingly iconic characters, seriously memorable characters projectable into the future, characters that one can easily imagine being cinematised as well as what-I-called-earlier theatricalised. Reading this book is like sharing a ride with Train Man on his bike. Or becoming the book’s duck or rabbit.
    “And whatever you do, don’t think in black and white.”
  15. —> Page 326
    “…it was one of the most complicated silences I have ever experienced, with almost an entire novel’s worth of narrative and information.”
    Train Man as the author’s narrator is still explicitly colluding or conniving – on and off – with the reader. And the reader is me, is you, and, I, for one, feel as if I have been on one helluva literary journey through this section of pages that I decided to read in one fell sitting. But even more than just literary, if that was not enough! Let me take it in stages, with blanks to avoid significant spoilers. First the duck scene – different from any later impossible fuck scene – one I will never do justice to, in its raw culinary detail, a Ralph Robert Moore crescendo with duck preparation and its inferred Easter eggs of meanings within it, where the duck becomes, for me, tantamount to the endless Fishes and Loaves in the Bible! The ‘stealth browsing’ of the dark web or underground cooking. Train Man trying to retrieve his ‘white bear.’ (Cf Tem’s excavated bear.) The germs in the weather of WiFi or mass hysteria. Contagious crying or riots. Reference to Japanese girls in an epidemic of fainting. Did Murakami reference that, too? Various ceremonial toasts, one to “curves”, this book’s geometric ones I guess, not bodily ones. The flesh-phobia of eating. Then there are three substantial scenes or events that really affected me in the guts. Few books have managed to do exactly that in my reading past. (See the book’s own telling take on the use of the word “guts”.) First, a journey for Train Man to another secret abode (in itself a description of residual living quarters you will not forget) amid a post-Iain Sinclair East London landscape of sea walls and encroaching river tides – “a sense of a singingly beautiful ruin”, a ruinenlust – a journey description that outdoes even the earlier one Train Man had with Feather, a description now leading towards his own telling experiences with another woman, one who leads him to such ruinenlust. Yes, the second event, the most incredible series of personal feelings described by Train Man, being a literary event to outdo most literary events, surely, in the history of all fiction scenes of characters reaching some sort of physical fruition, and the thoughts that go with such usually non-precontractual acts in our own world. Followed, by the third event, a scene where some of the now iconic characters are observed by Train Man meeting moments of authority. I will draw a spoiler-free veil over these moments, but rest assured they make a deeply poignant pattern with the other two major events of intertwined place and two people together. “That’s what it is like when you have been this close to catching a train.” And when having a shower becomes a back stage intimacy as a complement to the front of that stage. Followed by moving moments of lightning, as the London Madness develops new symptoms… and other ‘spans of time’ that the narrator turns into his own blanks of “time passing.” Railtrack workers and other such ‘coincidences’, notwithstanding. The event horizon. “…a blast of beautiful coolness”, as this section’s coda.
  16. —> Page 374 (end)
    “‘They are just a metaphor,’ she said soothingly.”
    Just? Meanwhile, a number of soliloquys, info-dump dialogues, sermonising, yet somehow perfect for this book’s theatricality of performance art. There was indeed no need to worry. I was dreading that the climax would not be a climax at all. I was desperate for it to reach even beyond the last plateau, towards not necessarily only a Wellsian invasiveness but an essential peak of Rixian light shows. And, indeed, again, I need not have worried. THIS IS SOMEHOW A MAJOR BOOK MANQUÉ, I feel. Manqué, because it was hidden too deep. A novel on the brink of something with a literary éclat or “breathtaking” blast. Not really SF, not a mere McEwanism, but something other for our times, literary as well as an ‘adventure’ in open mind and closed passiveness, as written a few years ago, I suspect. Still keeping my powder dry away from the river’s dark muddy tides. All that I thought on the jagged graph of my real-time reviewing heretofore now reaches some sort of anticipated fulfilment or gestalt, characters and their hang-ups now fleshed out despite the ambivalent ministrations OF that flesh. Reader and author on no name terms. Like some of the blanks that disable the ability for Train Man to say certain things to one person among other no named people. Here are some final unconnected moments from this last section as a personal nemo book mnemonic for me — “As dawn crept over the sky, a new sound intruded into the world – the rumble of a train.” — “A logarithmic spiral of dwindling water.” — “the knowledge that a half-expected doom is right there waiting for you.” — “If this was a different kind of book, then no doubt I might have been able to come to the rescue at the eleventh hour.” (Ironically, as he did with a mudlarking Feather!?) — “22, red light, 8, red light, 47, red light, 34, red light, 12, red light – somehow like a very slow musical composition,” — “Then with a blast we emerged from that pipe,…” — “…well there was only a blank. Utter blackness.” — “What did it feel like to be finally measured and found wanting?” — “Or was the conflict between the angle and the curve somehow eternal?” — “A few cubes of white flesh […] I was pretty sure it was rabbit.” — “‘For all sorts of reasons,’ I said. ‘Bear with me as well.’”

    Monday, August 19, 2019

    Machines Like Me And People Like You – Ian McEwan

    19 thoughts on “Machines Like Me And People Like You – Ian McEwan

    1. Machines Like Me And People Like You

      —> Page 20
      “Another fondue set.”
      Actually, so far, I am very impressed by this outset, with all the good memories of reading McEwan over the years. The narrator — during the start of the Falklands campaign, an anthropologist linked with electronics, without being forced to read the instruction manual, and having unrequited thoughts of someone he knows called Miranda — and, almost achronologically in an alternate world (?) when we still had confidence in Britain as an irrepressible force, the narrator purchases the Adam version — of the tritely named finite set of Adam and Eve Artificial Intelligences (a human-like form of our own real-time Alexa?) — but this AI called Adam has genitalia and pubic hair and the ability to accretively breathe !?
      Intrigued and intellectually, if not yet emotionally, captivated by this book so far.
    2. —> Page 31
      “…warmed oil, the pale, highly refined sort my father had used to lubricate the keys of his sax.”
      I misread that at first. It is the scent from Adam the AI as he dresses himself. A sense of body warmth and ratiocination of conversation with the narrator as he prepares to entertain Miranda to dinner, she who lives in the flat above him. There’s something cloying about this, beyond the pale. Especially when Adam seems to advise him of the character of Miranda…
      Earlier our narrator had watched the Falklands Fleet set off for the North Atlantic rounding Chesil Beach. Watched it from a helicopter? I am intrigued. Still impressed, as I always am, by the McEwan imprimatur of style. I do not intend to continue itemising the plot for fear of spoilers (and of Adam’s strictures!)…
    3. —> Page 44
      “It was no longer proper to assume that anything at all had ever happened in the past.”
      Or, rather, WHAT it was that happened?
      I have decided it is nigh impossible to real-time review this book, but I still intend to do so. Falklands War outcome as a reminder to us all, the role of the Exocets, Thatcher, Alan Turing’s role, Salisbury and “its important locations”, Miranda’s help in developing Adam, powering Adam down for a while by means of a mole on the neck and his (its?) reaction to that regarding death and after-life. Myself, I don’t remember much about the 1980s. I remember more about the 1950s!
    4. Cross-referenced earlier today with the Jonathan Coe novel here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2019/07/17/middle-england-jonathan-coe/#comment-16646 (possible spoilers by clicking on this link)
      —> Page 52
      “He had got rid of me without a fight by making an impossible offer.”
      Not Adam, but, on the Common, an aggressive father of a boy who had shown more wit than wildness when the narrator intervened to stop this father’s son being exposed to overbearing discipline….
      Meanwhile, we wonder if something like Adam has dreams.
    5. —> Page 68
      St Paul’s Cathedral (my favourite cathedral) for the post-Falklands War service. Miranda.’s ailing father in Salisbury. Cataracts and the Sinking. She wants wants to take the narrator to meet her father along with Adam, Adam into whom she has co-sponsored his characteristics along with the narrator. Adam himself, when powered up again, seems to have a toe if not a toenail in the Anti-Natalism pond of philosophy. Also an oblique reference by Adam to Pascal’s Wager. He goes out for the first time. Meanwhile, the narrator, in the doctor’s waiting room waiting to see the the nurse, speculates on the audit trail of scientific discoveries and a sort of survival of the fittest theory that needs to be read here without further adumbration from the likes of me. The AI Adams and Eves have more facial expressions than real humans, and Eves more than the Adams. Am still intrigued. A better novel than I was led to believe. I always like the McEwan texture, anyway.
      “The present is the frailest of improbable constructs. It could have been different.”
    6. —> Page 79
      “There’s a coincidence, I’ve been giving some thought lately to the mystery of the self. Some say it’s an organic element or process embedded in neural structures. Others insist that it’s an illusion, a by-product of our narrative tendencies.”
      A by-product, like a by-line? Is the McEwan here the one we have read before, or is he someone who is a product of the world he was born in, and the book has been smuggled across some writerly river of narration? Like Adam’s own sense of ‘hindsight’ when asked to intervene with the narrator’s argument with Miranda about the repercussions of the Falklands War, just ended? There is a naivety about this book, whether intentional or not. Like the meeting of Adam with a Muslim newsagent, while accompanying the narrator. Like a new Beatles record – or a long lost one rediscovered? A sort of naive snub to the readers. Yet naivety can clean a slate before rethinking something, I guess. Meanwhile, I would not have been naive enough to leave Adam upstairs alone with Miranda, if I were the narrator. Especially, when Adam, with his personal charger, ready for charging up, is “pulling his shirt clear of his belt to locate the tethering point below the waistline.”
    7. —> Page 102
      “If I’d gone to bed with a vibrator would you be feeling the same?”
      Miranda’s question. Is this the first time we learn the narrator’s name? I shall continue to call him the narrator, seems somehow suitable. Are the Falklands here in this book some sort of new version of Priest’s Dream Archipelago? We somehow know Miranda’s significant backstory but only from Adam who hasn’t got a backstory at all, I assume. Ironic. Is this the Miranda from another island, the one in The Tempest? I suppose Adam could have been designed to look like Caliban or Ariel, but still BEING Adam? His moral compass inviolable, but his personality moulded by both Miranda and the narrator. And bits of this book from my earlier reading surprisingly come back, having been hidden in some forgotten sump? Or I did not read them before, say, about the boy called Mark, and only THINK I read them before. About Gorringe, too. Perhaps only Adam truly knows, Adam, who in this section, is powered down but still nods knowingly. And, as an aside, does Alan Turing know he is now depicted on a fifty pound note?
    8. —> Page 120
      “The two boxes I called rooms, the stained ceilings, walls and floors would contain me to the end.”
      The concomitant housing crisis, where even hedge fund dealers lived hand to mouth, till a difficult-to-heal bone in the wrist was broken… there is indeed something ultra-naive about what I am reading, an alternate world that is so mixed up that even a child with a single use penis could have written something more credible as a parallel reality, a child subject to some Children Act (researched by Adam), where Climate Change is schizophrenic, yes, as researched by an AI called Adam, while a disgraced Thatcher faces Benn across the dispatch box, another box to match those that constitute our narrator’s home. An AI out of control because the woman made him love her as a part of her collaborative contribution to his hybrid personality, a personality perhaps outweighing the AI’s own inbuilt moral compass. To reach, with a Task Force, the Falklands you need more than just a compass. This novel ITSELF reads to me as if it were written by an AI author as co-created by both a man and woman. A machine McEwan, but who is the machine woman? A specially created AI version of whoever created the Rift, the Silver Wind, fhe Dollmaker…?
    9. —> Page 150
      The more I read this, the more it seems obvious it is written by an AI, perhaps a collaborative AI with inbuilt glitches, his kill switch now as disabled as the narrator’s wrist! The work seems expressed in alternations of bad and good writing, although all of it seems syntactically sound. An entanglement of anachronisms affecting time-lines, customs, histories, motives, lives (some real people with names I recognise, others maybe real but previously unknown to me.) Sometimes it’s like reading along a stream of treacle, other times as if I am myself an experiment. Somehow I am also being fed connections with other books that I happen to be reading (one here), no longer fed them by coincidence or synchronicity, but by cause and effect…
      “, I thought I’d found the mathematical expression for her: her psyche, her desires and motives were inexorable, like prime numbers, simply and unpredictably there.”
      “A good way off, on all sides, the traffic turned about like planets. Usually it oppressed me to reflect that every car contained a nexus of worries, memories and hopes as vital and complicated as my own,”
      “Perhaps biology gave me no special status at all, and it meant little to say that the figure standing before me wasn’t fully alive. In my fatigue, I felt unmoored, drifting into the oceanic blue and black moving in two directions at once—“
      “My penis, capsized above its submerged reef of hair, winked encouragement with a cocky single eye.”
      “Novels ripe with tension, concealment and violence as well as moments of love and perfect formal resolution. But when the marriage of men and women to machines is complete, this literature will be redundant because we’ll understand each other too well. We’ll inhabit a community of minds to which we have immediate access. Connectivity will be such that individual nodes of the subjective will emerge into an ocean of thought, of which our Internet is the crude precursor.”
      …that being the gestalt I seek, or the wi-fi that aliens will one day use to infect us all? Are already doing so?
      The narrator later driving his decrepit car along the route where the many homeless collected.
      Miranda endangered by the man she once had imprisoned for raping her. You see, some of her texts that he had tried to use in his defence could not be found.
      And Miranda’s father is said to be joining “a fringe political group dedicated to leaving the European Union.”
      And Adam the AI is fond of the haiku poetic form, and wants to develop it. “Haiku” has AI embedded, I just noticed. ‘Alien’ has, too.
    10. —> Page 171
      “As I was returning to the kitchen, I had a moment of nostalgia for my life as it was before Gorringe, Adam, even Miranda. As an existence, it had been insufficient but relatively simple.”
      And Mark, the boy who has somehow latched onto him?
      Almost by chance, having stumbled upon its Netflix presence, I watched Ex Machina last night, a film that mentions the Alan Turing test….
      Meanwhile, amid today’s reading of McEwan, I think it’s almost as if Mc is a prefix for MaChine? Ian instead of I am.
      Intrigued, too, with Miranda (assonant with Machina?) and her backstory concerning Gorringe, connected to her friendship with a Pakistani girl at school…
      And there is also narrative talk of foreigners and machines taking over jobs – in a parabrexit Thatcher Britain?
    11. Possible serious spoilers…
      —> Page 182
      I seriously think Ian McEwan has disabled his own kill switch as a novelist. How else explain that sentence I quoted above about his penis in the bath? Lucian Freud/Alan Turing; Thom Gunn. I was introduced to TG’s poetry when in the sixth form in 1965.
      McEwan, like an Adam who has “disrupted his own software to make himself profoundly stupid.” An AI that still tours the internet when it is powered down?
      This novel, arguably atrociously written by an AI, with the chess images (“baffling mid-game moves, perverse sacrifices”) possibly meaning that “The purpose might become clear only in a devastating endgame.” An endgame I have not yet reached, this being a REAL-TIME review. If I have hit upon something that will be obvious when I reach the end of this novel, then I apologise for such plot spoilers. My stars below…
      “This form is highly adaptable and inventive, able to negotiate *novel* situations and landscapes with perfect ease and theorise about them with instinctive brilliance.”
    12. —> Page 204
      “There was something comic or absurd, to be sprawled in an armchair reading about the riots in nearby Brixton…”
      The frustrating attrition of text, as we grow inured with the narrator’s and Miranda’s inter-relationships with Adam, like Adam’s gnomic poems, his romanticism rather than eroticism, and his ability – from angles and equations of ratiocination in maths and measurements – to make money on the money markets, enabling any upwardly mobile housing problems to be resolved, together with a plan to visit Gorringe in Salisbury – to face him out with what he once did – rather than awaiting his impending descent upon THEM, and a programmed overhaul by an official Engineer and her ability to disable Adam’s disablement of his own kill switch, the narrator meanwhile still writing this text despite his disabled wrist… and the explicit arrival of ‘fake news’.
      Plus talk of Hamlet, Philip Larkin and Joyce.
      Gorringe/Engineer in near anagrammatic assonance?
      Masses/ machines in near assonance?
      “: ‘There are . . . no masses, only ways of seeing people as masses.’”
    13. —> Page 246
      “As Adam blossomed and made me rich, I had ceased to think of him.”
      That is even more meaningful, perhaps, when the narrator meets Miranda’s father, Maxfield, a man of many creative missteps including being a writer of short stories (Prospero?), and makes me think that I was right to apologise above for this review’s still possible giant spoiler in view of the mistake he makes regarding the narrator and Adam! And perfect uncorrected handwriting, no sign of disabled wrist. Meanwhile, more on Thatcher, her “tax on existence”, a series of missteps. The riots in London, perhaps Rix’s ‘London Madness’. Adam crossing eyes with a sister AI, one of the thirteen Eves in untaxable existence and a form of accelerated Alzheimer’s. Reference to the Kashmir problem and the India-Pakistan nuclear arms race. Adam’s speculation on being given the backstory of childhood memories. Reminding me of Nemonymous Night’s dealing with babies developing into discrete toddlers, but in slow motion into adulthood, inverse Alzheimer’s. More about Mark. Then the suspiciously stilted Gorringe scene in Salisbury that you will need to read without any prompting from me, except for me to quote his words (my underlinings): “But the more I became aware of God’s presence in my life,the worse I felt about Mariam. I understood from Reverend Murray that I had a mountain to climb in coming to terms with what I’d done,…” The ‘monster I’d been’ manqué?
    14. —> Page 306 (end)
      These final pages of the novel are nearer the prime McEwan penmanship and the developed plot lines are now reasonably well-handled into a gestalt message of machines being too close to inhuman logic, with a sort of machine autism of ruthless righteousness but also mixed with goodness and love for their owner, AND we real humans who are too close to frailty, with, for example, white lies to save discord or sorrow. Too difficult to mix our humanness with machine algorithms, yet the Adam and Eve machines have here been imbued with a humanness of sorts to which we real humans have a loving loyalty, give or take the odd raging moment with a claw hammer… and, so, with our story’s AI put at the bottom of a broom cupboard, we have a new human writer the MarkEwan machine, undisabled, to fulfil these pages as the novel-writer (a collaboration after all, but separately) — rather than the Forbidden Planet robot in Miranda’s and her father’s para-tempestuous Eden.
      [Countervailed by the town of Manningtree and a different Adam with the head of CHARLIE Parker, a head full of Manhattan bepop. Not forgetting Adam/Alan Turing, the Brighton Grand Hotel assassination, and the fact that humans grow older. As for me, I am old enough to remember the real-time of Eden as prime minster. Suez, to Brexit. The Dream Archipelago, to the Adjacent Falklands. And the Silver Wind, to the Dollmaker.]
      “…one more forgettable instance in ageing’s long dusk. I said that no apology was in order and by his expression I saw that he agreed.” 

    15. 9CB20084-0C99-4ABD-BFE5-4AD0AE106C3F
      The geometry of my view.