Friday, June 25, 2010

Tuned in



Get those critical receptors tuned folks, here's the Transmission guide you've been waiting for.

Actually, I typed the review last night and then in a bolt from the electronic divine my pc crashed and destroyed all traces of it. So here is a more succinct rendering.

It was a less ambitious book than The Impressionist and it seemed as if Kunzru had more confidence for it or perhaps his confidence came across more enjoyably and less like arrogance with regards to the subject matter. Anyhow, the point is, it is a contemporary set novel about a computer geek (I can say that, I'm married to one) who rolls like a ball of liquid lead solder around the circuit board of the novel's plot which takes the reader through the intricacies of computer viruses to Bollywood in an unlikely yet plausibly connected way.

It is funny in places, very funny in some, especially if you know a pc geek (or are married to one) and you recognise the similarities, but all too often it feels like a scene from UK TVs Goodness Gracious Me. I'd be really interested to know what any Indian readers make of this book - let me know guys. Anyway, it's not trying to wow you with its knowledge of neat references to all things Empire and it's a crisper and more acerbic book for it but, yes, there's always one, I wish Kunzru would know when to stop. Time and time again he has a great line or observation but then goes on about it as if to say, did you get that, did you notice it, there, I said that and wasn't it good, no, really, read it again. It's as if he's afraid to be subtle.

If I had read this book first I might have had more sympathy for The Impressionist. Here you recognise the same narrative voice in your ear only it's set to the right tone for the subject matter in Transmission, whereas in The Impressionist it was woefully off key. An enjoyable if not stellar read which hits the right note in the din of geek fiction; literary fiction this aint, but at least Transmission isn't pretending to be (even if the jacket designers try to convince you to the contrary). 

28 comments:

Andrea said...

I'm a bit behind on contemporary fiction sometimes - though I did just finish a great Kate Zambreno novel. Might have to add this one to my list.

Loved the metaphor about the rolling ball of liquid lead solder!

patteran said...

I admire both your tenacity in sticking with a novel that failed to hit all the buttons in the wake of a previous less-than-satisfactory read from the same author - and your perseverance with a review that had crashed and burned once already!

I'm a shamefully intolerant reader. I read voraciously, mainly novels and biographies, and if I'm not engaged within 10 pages I'm reaching for the next one in the pile. And I rarely return for another go. Which works out expensive!

Rachel Fenton said...

Andrea - I wouldn't rush out to put this one on the pile but it's a better book in many ways than The Impressionist which, frankly, isn't that impressive an achievement!

I tend to have my head stuck in the past, too, when it comes to much of my reading and I read a lot of academic papers and non-fiction for inspiration or research so my brain is usually occupied or tired and therefore fiction has to grab me to keep me faithful.

Dick - thanks - not sure if it's tenacity or blind hope or stupidity which keeps me going. I'm much the same with impatience and book flinging but I didn't want to give a second review in a row without having given the guy a fair chance.

As for the cost - books are like shoes: I visit them many times before buying to be sure it's love and not infatuation! Unless, of course, there's a mega sale on and then I'm waddling about with my arms full of paper babies and my pregnant mind doesn't know which to start reading first!

I'm reading one of Barbara Smith's recommendations at the moment: John Banville's The Infinities which popped into my head as I was reading your latest poem. Mythology, humour and maths. Enjoying it so far. I always blab on about Michael Ondaatje's In the Skin of a Lion as a great read. It's still my favourite book by a living author.


Thanks to the pair of you for reading, I appreciate you taking the time.

catdownunder said...

It did not set me purring...took it back to the library unfinished.

Rachel Fenton said...

Nor me, Cat, but I had to concede it was a better read than The Impressionist. But then my Bero recipe book is a better read than The Impressionist so ...well...
Won't read anything else of his in a hurry - if only to give him a break from my harsh views!

Thanks.

Rachel Fox said...

We are indeed living parallel lives for I too have the geek-to-hand. They're not to be sneezed at!
x

Rachel Fenton said...

Ha - that's so funny! We are geek godesses then ;)

Lori said...

This should make an interesting book for my geek husband who is also Indian. I will recommend it to him. I don't think I will ever touch it, now. I am completely over the literature of overly confident and self-infatuated men, and this seems to be one of those cases.

Rachel Fenton said...

Lori - let me know what he thinks about it because there were some things in there which made me feel uncomfortable.

I can't believe you, Rachel Fox and I are married to geeks!

It did feel very much like a book written for the lads.

Thankfully, I've since read some decent fiction to eradicate the memory of it somewhat! In a couple of weeks it will be as though it never existed! But here's a plus side to reading a duff book - the next mildly decent book you read will seem brilliant by comaparison...oh, except that this was mildly better than the last...erm...


Thanks for reading :)

Kass said...

Doesn't your pile of rejection letters stymie you when you read something notably bad?

You're a patient, kind soul to give Hari some Care(y) (you know, Hari Kari - did you get that, did you notice it, there, I said that and wasn't it good, no, really, read it again. Wasn't that clever?)

steven said...

"rolling ball of liquid lead solder". i know people like that!! thanks for the review. have a peaceful day. steven

LimesNow said...

I'm a geek goddess, too, Rachel! I may have to put Kunzru on my already-way-too-long list that I'll never work through. I LOVED this: "rolls like a ball of liquid lead solder around the circuit board of the novel's plot".

WV - drack. Your use of words is not drack.

Thomas Taylor said...

My wife's chic, not a geek, but I hope I can still comment.

That cover is very misleading then, because it rather suggests God-Of-Small-Things-ness, which seems completely at odds with the impression you give in this review. The review is excellent though. I enjoyed that solder metaphor too. Hey, you should write a book...

:)

Rachel Fenton said...

Hehehe, very good, Kass. Got out my suture kit and sewing up my sides as I type!

Eeeek! Is my rejection pile so big even you can see it?
Thanks, Kass.



Hi Steven,
thank you for reading. I like the way that the outside of lead forms a skin but it wants to keep moving along the flux so it sort of climbs out of its skin and dries like a half peeled metal fruit. Hmn. Bet that's made your day...moving swiftly on..


Les, there are way more books out there that I'm sure you would love to stand your mug on! I have a perverse curiosity now to see what else he's written, though. Must be something wrong with me. Luckily I have too many other books to distract me! Glad you found a bit you liked.

You've lost me with the drack (isn't that scumbag?)
My use of words is not a volkswagon female scumbag???

Oh, no, it's not VW, but WV - haha, still confused...

Oh, please explain. I've been at the keyboard an hour and am baffled already!

Thank you so much for reading :)

Rachel Fenton said...

Thomas, how did you slip in up there?

With the cover you're right - and that's what I was imagining (I really enjoyed The God of Small Things - though, the repeating of fountain/pineapple hair for the whole length of the book began to grate a little). It was at least an easy read.

Haha, I should write a book..or four...ha..ha...man, where did I put my suture kit?

Thanks!

Dave King said...

That blasted electronic divine has a lot to answer for, but I'm with patteran in admiring your stickablity. I do get the impression that it might be my sort of book.

Rachel Fenton said...

So long as you don't get The Impressionist, Dave - you go for it, and let me know what you think.

It's got something. Not sure I'll give him another try anytime soon. I hate to say this but I think it's a book for the boys.

Kass said...

In case Leslie doesn't get back here, I'll explain WV. It's a game she and the Badger and a few others play. They try to use the word verification nonsensical arrangement of letters as if it were a word or close to it.

Rachel Fenton said...

Hahaha - I see (on goes the lightbulb) because I thought there was no way "your words are not [a female scumbag] made sense! It's a very odd slang term...but now I know :) Thank you, Kass!

Kass said...

Rachel - I love the comment you left on my covered bridge post.

Keyholes shining on my face.

Park tops? What are they?

Acid leaves, strobe effect. Walking fast.

Pin hole camera.

You may be a non-believer, but I believe every word you write in a way that I need to believe in things.

Tahlia said...

That's a very thoughtful review, thanks.

If you're interested in YA fantasy, you might like to take a look at ch1 of at my new novel, 'Lethal Inheritance’. You’ll find it at
http://publishersearch.wordpress.com/lethal-inheritance/

Rachel Fenton said...

Hi Tahlia - cheers.

joehebden said...

Do you have an all-time favourite book, or books ?

Rachel Fenton said...

Um, I always bang on about Ondaatje's "In the Skin of a Lion" so that's definitely up there. I don;t think I've found that perfect book yet though. Don;t want to in a way else I'd not need to go on reading!
How about you?

joehebden said...

The Rose of Tibet by Lionel Davidson.

Rachel Fenton said...

I've not heard of that, Joe, but I'll look it up. Why do you like it?

Just noticed I keep hitting the semi-colon instead of the apostrophe! Typomaniac!

Poet in Residence said...

Rachel, I just read your comment on Jim Murdoch's blog. For some reason I had the sudden thought you'd enjoy today's poem 'Chicken on Ice' on Gerald England's blog (if you want to do it you can go to the "correct" Gerald England blog - he has lots and lots of blogs - by clicking on his name on my Recently Updated Blogs list. Sorry it's complicated but I'm not a computer nerd, there's lots I can't do!
best of bardic,
gwilym williams

Rachel Fenton said...

Ooh, intrigue, Gwilym. Thank you, I shall wind my way there for a look anon.