The Online Home of New Fiction
June 2006
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JPod – Douglas Coupland
From its opening lines (‘I feel like a refugee from a Douglas Coupland novel.’ ‘That asshole’), from its title even, JPod is full of jokes. Jokes about all things contemporary, for this is the upgrade to Coupland’s 1995 novel Microserfs, billed by his new UK publisher, Bloomsbury, as a ‘joyride into today’s new breed of technogeeks’. If hesitant about whether it will be sufficiently techy for you, it may be reassuring to learn that JPod features a running numerical gag in which 56 pages are devoted to numbers instead of words. Pi, of course, is featured, and even those who number sysadmins among their friends will be pressed to match the level of hardcore geekery featured here. –LA
i don’t.com
You may have seen this advert on a bus or train somewhere near you, and wondered if iDont offers a viable alternative to the wired world. Well, don’t click through. Perhaps predictably, the message to the masses offered by their radically worded ‘manifesto’ and signed by ‘Da Sheep Herder’ is, why don’t you stop being an iPod consumer and consume our product instead? Their chief beef with Apple – that iPod’s rechargeable battery cannot easily be replaced – is a valid one, and yet something about their marketing (‘it’s not our style to be cheesy, pushy, sales hacks,’ iDont claim) just makes you want to say: Baah-locks.

The Macmillan New Writing imprint, dubbed ‘the Ryanair of publishing’ by Hari Kunzru, is now up and running. One early release is this technothriller, which begins on Christmas Day 1868 as philosopher and explorer Captain Sir Richard Burton completes a manuscript on the meaning of life. ‘The Manuscript’ mysteriously vanishes into legend. From this Indiana-Jones-style premise Fuchs charges into a present-day story centred on attempts to retrieve Burton’s solution to the riddle of life, now apparently hidden somewhere on the internet. Interested parties tripping over each other in their efforts to get there first include all the usual suspects: hitmen, shadowy ‘intelligence’ agents, and drug dealers. Fuchs's book is not for everyone. His prose is hard-boiled, char-grilled, flambéd, and seasoned with metaphors that can be unsettling in their weirdness. On occasion, multiple viewpoints and subtle shifts of time confuse the reader, but for the most part, this debut novel crashes through its faults and emerges as a high-energy, enthusiastic yarn. The Manuscript is a captivating debut.-IH

On Beauty — Zadie Smith
Finding form through a re-working of EM Forster’s Howard’s End may have given Zadie Smith a sense of relaxation to work through the ideas and concerns that animate the transatlantic tale of the Belsey and Kipps families; academic rivalry, race in America, the meaning of beauty, the gap and silences between parent and child, the love between a middle aged husband and wife. On Beauty has a style and sensibility that casts her previous novels as anxious apprentice work. Using Forster as a model allows her sympathetic, gently comic sensibility to work itself out at natural pace. It reads as an intimate dialogue with one of her closest writing influences, and there is a sense of enjoyment in this, of a writer discovering her metier through engagement with her inspiration.-HS
On Beauty

Cold Skin – Albert Sanchez Pinol
This tall tale of sub-Antarctic horror rattles along engagingly enough, in a Lovecraft meets Ballard kind of way. In common with their writing, it is a curiously old-fashioned business, riddled with the unconscious sexism of much Euro fiction — though here, the author's morbid horror of women takes on an almost laughably literal form. Pinol, you suspect, still lives with his mother. -MK
Cold Skin
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