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Men in Space Paperback – February 7, 2012
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—The New York Times Book Review
“[McCarthy] is an agile and venturesome writer, adeptly shaping these disparate voices into a thrilling and satisfying symphony.”
—The New Yorker
“Imaginative, brooding, and stoutly thematic—even a bit romantic. The pacing is unique, and McCarthy is without a doubt an Important Literary Voice. . . . It’s impossible to ignore the beautiful style of the prose. . . . It is clever that a treatise on the universal tendency to cut-and-paste, literally and figuratively, is set in the pre-email, pre-digital world. It is almost as if the goings-on were recorded in lush analog: everything that comes after moves too fast for the human eye to observe.”
—The Houston Chronicle
“There’s an unmistakably desperate edge to the social frenzy among the Prague expats chronicled in Tom McCarthy’s second novel, Men In Space. Their involvement in an art heist gone wrong on the eve of the Czech Republic’s creation ultimately provides these foreigners with a sense of reckoning that suffuses all their good times. . . . McCarthy reports their struggles with irony but also kindness.”
—The Onion A.V. Club
“McCarthy depicts cosmopolitan street life with astonishing detail and humor. . . . Worth quoting at length.”
—Open Letters Monthly
“Intriguing. . . . McCarthy deftly knits together a continuous, chapterless narrative of changing viewpoints. The central story is intense and interesting. . . . Best described as Philip K. Dick’s A Scanner Darkly meets Milan Kundera’s The Book of Laughter and Forgetting; this is a tribute to what the novel can be. Enthusiastically recommended.”
“The author, who lived through this tumultuous historical period and wrote this book in Prague, makes tangible the heady rush of freedom; his bone-deep understanding gives this transformative period a visceral charge.”
“McCarthy is fast revealing himself as a master craftsman who is steering the contemporary novel towards exciting territories.”
—The Observer (London)
“A confident and intelligent meditation on failed flights of transcendence.”
—Times Literary Supplement
Top Customer Reviews
This is the third McCarthy book I've read. As a more overt puzzle novel, C exhausted me, and although its opaqueness kept me at a distance, its overall shape and weft was obviously the work of genius. Even more accessible, Remainder did get repetitive and tiresome, but the writing flowed so quickly and with such sumptuous detail that every other page seemed to give me a second and third (and so on) wind. This novel -- about failed transcendence, about isolation and human detritus, and about the existential inevitability of ignorance (or just misunderstanding) -- seemed, however, to belabor its message to the point of abstraction. I could not wait to be done with it long before I was halfway through.
The novel follows a large cast of characters who enter and leave each other's lives obliquely. If it can be said to be about anything, it centers around the reproduction of a stolen piece of artwork -- the novel's biggest symbol and MacGuffin Deluxe. Depicting a saint (?) falling or descending from an ellipsis of nothing, the painting represents different things to different people, but the end result for all is essentially the same.Read more ›
On the other hand, I think at least Remainder is a more successful book, and both are more coherent novels than this book, which is a series of closest observed scenes with a connected set of characters, but not much of a plot. There is a randomness to the end of the book, as though the author had hundreds of stories to tell and stopped abruptly because someone blew a whistle rather than because the story had come to an end.
And what exactly is the story? In Prague, at the end of 1992, there are thugs, intellectuals, artists, visitors and refugees. And all of their worlds intersect at various points. So when a thug wants a copy made of a stolen icon, it is easy to traverse that world to find the perfect person for the assignment. But everything goes wrong, lots of people die, and plop, the book ends.
A reoccurring theme in the author's novels is to destroy the allusion that books mirror life and that both are these well-rounded emotionally satisfying worlds. Instead he creates flat, limited worlds and makes the reader determine what meaning exists, since the very act of flattening the world, particularly emotionally, is that the reader has difficulty making easy assumptions like Anton is a good person, or I like Heidi or I sure hope Roger doesn't die.
The books are filled with detailed and obsessively observed facts, and this is particularly true of Men in Space.Read more ›
Men in Space