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The Tesseract by Alex Garland - Book Review


The Tesseract
Alex Garland

Fiction-Net Rating 4 Star Rated Book

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Cover Story

The sun is setting over Manilla. In an abandoned hotel on the wrong side of town, Sean prepares for the arrival of Don Pepe, the mestizo gangster who runs the shipping lanes of the South China Seas. As he kills time, Sean discovers that his bed sheets are stained with blood, the phone lines to his room are dead and somebody has screwed a steel plate over the spyhole in his door.

Elsewhere in the city, Rosa, a doctor, waits for her husband to come home. As she puts her children to bed she remembers the coastal village in which she was raised and the boy who would meet her on the way to school.

Meanwhile, thirteen-year-old Vincente begs from the stream of air-conditioned cars on Roxas Boulevard, keeping an eye out for the strange man who lives in the city's most expensive apartment block and who pays money for street kids' dreams.

Tonight, these disparate lives will collide in a shattering finale.

We Say

I saw Alex Garland at an event that was part of the Birmingham Readers and Writers Festival not long after The Tesseract had been published. My impression of him was of an articulate man with intensity and a determination to make the very best of his craft. Though also seemingly modest about his work, he has every right to feel justly proud of this novel and confessed that he felt and indeed, hoped that it was an improvement on his first novel, The Beach.

Shamefully, the latter is probably more famous now for its re-invention as a Leonardo DiCaprio movie. However, the book that many of us remember was a great thriller and a compulsive page-turner but slightly flawed. What Garland has produced in The Tesseract is something more complex and unexpected.

Manila is brought to life in the best way that a city can be in a book. I have never been there but Alex Garland gave me a sense of the heat, the smells and the different paces and facets of life that exist in this one place. The three main parts of the book involve totally different stories and totally different characters and you wonder how they could possibly meet but then this book is about the complexity of connections and how nothing can ever be as simple as it may appear at first glance.

All of the characters have their own stories to tell - Sean, Rosa, Don Pepe, his henchmen, the street kids and Alfredo who buys their dreams. It's a highly complicated structure for a narrative, like the tesseract itself (a hypercube unravelled) and it shows great courage on the part of the author that he even began to tackle it.

Alex Garland is frighteningly talented and a true craftsman of words and the fact that The Tesseract holds together and concludes with such confidence and vigour is proof of the fact.

Review by: Rachel Taylor

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