Saturday, March 31, 2012

Review: Men in Space, by Tom McCarthy

Tom McCarthy's second-published novel, Men in Space, came out in the U.K. in 2007.  However, it has only made its way to the United States this year.

I found Men in Space to be an astounding book, yet another example of how young British authors are finding new directions to take the novel.  So why are we only getting it now?  Perhaps, publishers perceived the setting -- Prague before and after January 1, 1993, when Czechoslovakia split apart -- as having been overdone.  But  McCarthy knows every sight, sound, and smell of the city; it has been a long time since I have read a novel with such a knowing sense of place.

And the place perfectly epitomizes the drift of the motley group of individuals, that McCarthy follows, including a leading modern artist; a Dutch gallery curator; an assortment of Bulgarian thugs, an Interpol agent, and various British and American expats.  The axis around which these characters revolve is a stolen religious icon and a forgery scheme gone awry.

The style of Men in Space has much in common with that of C, McCarthy's Booker-shortlisted third novel.  McCarthy is fascinated by systems of knowledge including, here, art, astronomy, and physics.  Symbols abound, linking together, for instance, the geometry of a Prague flat with that of a soccer stadium with that of the stolen icon.

But where C sometimes felt ponderous, Men in Space is a fast-paced page turner.  In particular, the scene of a jailhouse interrogation was the best scene of this sort I have ever read -- it had my heart beating faster and my hands unable to stop turning pages.   The story only falls short at the ending, as McCarthy struggles to wrap things up.

Unfortunately, other duties call, so I need to wrap this review up.  If you have any questions, or if you have read Men in Space and want to share your thoughts, please comment below!

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed C so I'll be sure to look for this.