Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Kills - Richard House (updated as I finish volumes) FINAL UPDATE

I like to think of my readers as intelligent, literary, interested in music and the new, broad of mind and interested in saving money. So this one's for you. 

On the long list this year for the Booker prize is The Kills by Richard House.   It's not on the short list, but the long list gave it some prominence and it garnered some excellent reviews and comment. 

It consists of four separate but interconnected novels. The first Satler is a page turning thriller that starts in Iraq & traverses turkey to Malta and Europe, with random encounters, deaths and mystery. Thoroughly enjoyed its complex incompleteness (after all, it's only the first part, but I am not expecting answers to everything by the end - it's that sort of book), but satisfying. The next The Massive takes the situation from the opening of book 1 (a dump in the desert run by contractors) and expands on it backwards and possibly forward (it does). Characters recur and get filled out with personalities and histories. 

I haven't read The Kill (3) & The Hit (4) yet, but know 3 concerns a novel that gives the novel its name & has been being read at various times - and I expect some of the characters will pop up. The Hit then returns to Satler apparently and muddies that story. I think that there will be a lot of fun following the links, puzzling over uncertainties and just enjoy a well written book.. 

So why here?

2 things. The novel in electronic form contains links or embedded content (which, beware, make the files bigger) of films, phone calls, maps. So far I haven't found them intrinsic, but they are an indication if where fiction could go. 

But to my money conscious literary readers, if you go here (paywithtweet) you can get volume 1 as a free download if you sell your soul and send a tweet. My twitter following is pitiful so there won't be too many people bothered by the spam! Alternatively, each volume is quite cheap from amazon or apple (au$2.99 each from iTunes) which makes up to a good value equivalent 1000 page book. 

As I said, really enjoyed volume 1, 2 is great too but going a different direction, more personal story/ies. Will report back. 

Quick note: do not read the brief blurb for the fourth novel before reading it. It clarifies the role of a main protagonist, while a pleasure of the first third to a half is wondering where these characters fit and their roles.

Ok - have finished volume 2 and thoroughly enjoyed it. It completes some of the picture seen in volume 1 explaining the blast, raises questions about where Satler is, and the question of Guezzler broadens from merely his puppetmaster-like role, but also his identity at the end of 2. The book discussed in 1 was a film in 2 and will be volume 3. So 4 will have to wait to supply more answers.

Volume 3: an interesting murder mystery where we don't really know who was murdered. It is based on the book & film mentioned in 1&2. Lovely writing, amazing sense of dread built, but asks questions and answers few. About its content and action - but also what is it doing here! At this stage I can't see the link to the other volumes other than as mentioned in them.

I am getting through this quickly - don't often read through a novel as big as this so precipitously. What is glorious is the questions it leaves unanswered!

And now finsihed. The final volume continued from the end of the first. Introduced some new characters, revisited some old. A very clever use of the book by one character. Some questions answered, not all ends tied. But another very good read.

Overall well worth the time and money - and enjoyable and thought provoking read. He is great at creating a sense of dread. DON'T READ THE BLURB FOR THE HIT BEFORE STARTING - IT IS A TERRIBLE SPOILER.

Recurring aspects: unidentified deaths, unknown deaths. Misidenticication, misunderstanding. Uncertainty as to the fate of characters. Coincidences.
Well managed development of our understanding.

I was wondering about the placement of The Kill as the third volume. It doesn't directly link in terms of characters, however what I think is that it is largely there as a metafictional game - to remind us that everything between the covers is a novel; and that seeking answers for all the uncertainties in the 3 other books is like expecting the third book to be true - it is all lies. Themes/strands of the overall novel are exlored in this one. But that all 4 novels refelect life in terms of its undertainty and openness.

And a final note on the embedded material - it is interesting and adds a little detail but is not essential. The final film, which explains how Mr Wolf & his brother got the original original novel for their exploits in part 3 was filmed at Halong Bay (which I visited recently) and coincidentaly I have changed my phone wallpaper to a panorama of the bay as it works very nicely with iOS 7 - but coincidence or what!!!!

FINAL FINAL NOTE a couple of days later: This novel, set of novels has stuck with me - thinking about the plot, the fascinating intertwining and the simple pleasure. Well written, well plotted and fascinating - it is totally absorbing as a straight novel, but retrospectively mesmerising in its structure. I read all 1000+ paper pages on my iPhone & enjoyed every minute. Get the free first volume & you will want to buy the other 3 - money well specnt.

A side note about reviewing: when deciding whether to buy these I looked at online reviews. In the Telegraph they say that The Massive We know at the start that these men will die of horrific cancers within a few months of each other. Yet it is very obvious, as the first chapter goes through the deaths (yes) that there are a variety of causes (including suicide) and that the first reported (the last actual) is Santo which makes distinct reference to 36 years of psoriasis and the next starts "before Luis by 18 years came Clark" - makes you wonder how much they read if they get lost in the first chapter 

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