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The Book of Revelation Hardcover – February 8, 2000


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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Rupert Thomson has a solid reputation as a cult writer: his earlier books have garnered increasing acclaim without ever really propelling him into the authorial big time. Still, his 1998 novel, Soft!, marked a definite upswing in terms of recognition. And it would be a shame if The Book of Revelation, his sixth and latest, didn't continue this trend, given its level of psychological and aesthetic daring.

The narrator of Thomson's book is a dancer living in Amsterdam. One day he goes out to buy some cigarettes for his girlfriend--also a dancer--and is kidnapped and held for a period of time before being released. It would be unfair to give away too much more. But suffice it to say that each development adds an additional coordinate to what we might call the novel's emotional geography. Indeed, the Dutch metropolis seems to be a full participant in this intricate fiction:

There was a sense in which the city had been trying to tell me something all along. You'll never solve this case. You might as well forget it. But I had not been listening, of course. Look at the map. It's all there, in a way. The whole story.
At a time when so many writers are obsessed with trauma--particularly child abuse and its psychological fallout--Thomson chooses to explore the concept through an event that is both more and less sensational. The narrator's ordeal evokes the sort of highly ritualized bastinado that we encounter in, say, Story of O. Yet the author distances us from these events by switching from the first to the third person, a simple device that complicates and deepens the effect of the book as a whole.

Thomson's strange, disturbing tale asks profound questions about the burden of the past, especially of past events that set one apart from others. In this sense, The Book of Revelation chips away at the very notion of objectivity. How do we relate to others when we have experienced events that defy explanation or resolution? Perhaps such truths can be delivered only by (as it were) revelation. --Burhan Tufail

From Publishers Weekly

Thomson, a brilliant Londoner, certainly never writes the same book twice. Air and Fire was a wonderfully ambient tropical adventure, Soft a devastating contemporary London thriller. Revelation which resembles his previous novel, The Insult, more than either of these, ponders the consequences of an extreme episode in the life of an attractive (and unnamed) English ballet dancer and choreographer working in Amsterdam. One day, on a brief sortie to buy cigarettes for his lovely girlfriend, he is abducted by three mysterious masked women and held for nearly three weeks as a chained sexual slave in a bright room somewhere in the city. He is tattooed, violated, painfully tethered by his penis. He fights to preserve his equilibrium, gives the women imaginary names, tries to memorize their bodies. Then, as suddenly and unexpectedly as he was taken, he is released and must resume his existence. But his life has been twisted out of joint--his girlfriend doesn't believe his story; he finds he cannot work and becomes obsessed with searching for the women. Aided by a sudden legacy, he travels the world for several years, a lonely and disaffected soul in search of an anchor. Finally, back in Amsterdam, thinking he has discovered one of his captors, he assaults a girl in a club and is arrested. All this is conveyed in Thomson's usual fluent and riveting style, and the effect is mesmerizing. It is also affectless, however, for once the gripping sex-slavery episode is over, the book seems like a long anticlimax, which is concluded in a peculiarly unsatisfying way. Thomson can never be dull, and the notion of a man trying to recover from the consequences of rape is an intriguing one. Despite this narrative's glittering surface, however, it is not one of his sharper efforts. (Feb.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1st American ed edition (February 8, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375409270
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375409271
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.9 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,047,880 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

I am all for the reader being left to their own conclusions, but this book was ridiculous.
RachelMW
He will carry the horrible events he endured in captivity for the rest of his life, probably without ever knowing the identity of his torturers.
Pieter de Rooij (37)
`The Book of Revelation' is an interesting book if not as good as Thomson's previous work which is still an amazing accomplishment.
Nigel Funge

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Nigel Funge on February 28, 2000
Format: Hardcover
`The Book of Revelation' is an interesting book if not as good as Thomson's previous work which is still an amazing accomplishment. The first half of the novel, while not as shocking as some have said, concerns the kidnapping of a male classical dancer and his subsequent sexual torture by three masked nude women. The second half of the book details his escape and subsequent soul-searching. The theme of the latter part of `The Book Of Revelation' is very reminiscent (to me) of a lot of Hermann Hesse's work. The only issue (and this is, admittedly, rather petty) I had is that Rupert Thomson's brilliant descriptions that were so prevalent in his fantastic `The Insult' and `Dreams of Leaving' aren't as abundant. I frequently stopped and admired the analogies and descriptions in those two books. If you haven't read either `Dreams Of Leaving' (which you'll have to track down in a used bookstore in the U.S. - or an auction site - since it's not currently being published here) or `The Insult', I'd recommend those first. However, if you have already read and enjoyed those, certainly read `The Book Of Revelation.'
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Pieter de Rooij (37) on January 10, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Rupert Thomson (1955) has written a fascinating and compelling sixth novel, and once you start reading 'The Book of Revelation', it's difficult to put the book down. A nameless 30-year old english dancer/choreographer lives and works in Amsterdam. He has a succesful career and for some years he's been living happily with his nice girlfriend Brigitte, also a dancer. In his life there are no real troubles, until... everything changes forever. He's abducted in Amsterdam by three cloaked and hooded women, who hold him captive and chained naked to the floor of an anonymous white empty room for eighteen days. For no apparent reason. During his captivity the only option there for him is total submission. The young women, presumably of his own age, appear often naked -though always hooded- to him. They have their way and play all kinds of games with him, mostly for their sexual pleasure. When the women's demands become more fierce, total dehumanisation and humiliation follows. The man is defenseless against this depraved performance of power, domination and desire. The ordeal he's subjected to includes rape and even brutal mutilation. For the reader this is a shocking nightmare as well.
The captivity-part of the book reminded me of Pascal Bruckner's bizarre and weird, but brilliant novel 'les voleurs de beauté' (1997), and of two films where a similar sort of events takes place: Pasolini's `Salo: the 120 days of Sodom' (1975) and Michael Haneke's `Funny Games' (1998). What happens there is that you're forced to witness extreme atrocities, while you know there will be no escape from these brutal violations of human dignity. And of course, as a `witness', it makes you sick, you feel horrible. It's the same with Thomson's `Book of revelation', with one big difference, ... a relief.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By karl b. on August 7, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I was quite prepared not to like this book, drawn to it to see what the 'cult' status of Rupert Thomson was all about. The premise of a man being kidnaped by 3 bosom young women seemed the maudlin stuff of my adolescent fantasies. The tone here, however, is one of psychological suspense rather than prurience. The kidnap sequence lasts only a few chapters. What follows is an exploration of the trauma of sexual exploitation. Not only are the roles reversed here, but the attitude of the victim is decidedly against the grain of accepted convention. He seems strangely detached from his ordeal, which certainly involved sensual pleasures, but also deeply offensive and invasive circumstances. In the aftermath, he abandons his previous lifestyle, girlfriend and seems to be semiconsciously trying to recreate the situations of his incarceration. He does not report the incident, fearing the humiliating publicity, as most men would. He wanders in a disassociated state, wildly but unsatisfyingly promiscuous. Thomson's book is a haunting meditation of eros and abuse. It is a tale of subjection, submission, seduction, dependence and obsession. It plumbs the ambiguous nature of sexual relationships, the indistinct borders of consent, societal predispositions as to what constitutes rape. The book has a nightmarish alter ego to its blithe and breezy narration, as a festering wound entangles the protagonist with denial, guilt and anger in an explosive combination. This is juxtaposed against a city that continues undistracted, unaware of an event so devastating that the main character has ceased to function as a contributing member. The author relates the outward effects, leaving the reader to fathom the inward distress.Read more ›
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Steve Y on February 22, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I finished this book in 1 1/2 days. It's very powerful and moving. Thomson has a nice style, and the subject matter is both shocking (the first half) and universal (the second half). Don't be put off by the subject matter...the story is about so much more than "sex".
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Bucherwurm on March 17, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Some men (not me of course) fantasize that they are held captive by a clutch of beautiful women who do interesting things to them. The hero of this novel, a choreographer, is kidnapped by three women who want to use him to satisfy their physical desires. This they do, but our friend really doesn't get into the spirit of it all, and yearns to escape. I don't think I can describe much of this for fear of getting censored by the word police. Let's just say that all the women get pretty satisfied, and then, suddenly, after a few weeks they release him.
Does he run to the police and report his kidnapping? He thinks about it, but who would believe him? He's been violated, but can't tell anybody about it. He takes three years off and tours the world to get it out of his system, but when he returns to England he becomes obsessed with finding these women. His search is extensive, but naturally I can't report the outcome. I'll just say that if Camus were alive I would bet anything that he had been hired to write the ending.
The theme of this novel is quite original. We can easily accept that women who are abused by men undergo considerable psychological trauma. In this story RT shows us that a man could also suffer damage from such an experience, especially when he feels unable to seek help.
Well worth reading.
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