Thursday, November 25, 2004

Girlfriend in A Coma

Ok, not really. Alex Garland's new book The Coma does throw narrator Carl into a coma, but there's no girlfriend. There is a secretary. Or maybe she is a girlfriend. It gets a little confusing at times, but its that confusion that makes this book work so well.

On a late-night ride home from work on London's tube, Carl dares to stand up to some muggers intent on robbing a woman. The muggers pummel poor Carl for his intrusion, sending him into a deep coma. He wakes up sometime later to find things changed. His friends act strangely, and even little things like cups of coffee don't seem quite right. Before long it becomes all too apparent to both Carl and the reader that he's still in a coma, and everything he's experiencing is within his own mind. Carl then dives into the depths of his memories and fantasies, both pleasant and traumatic, to jar himself back to the waking life of the real world. But as time goes on, Carl becomes unsure of what's really memory and what he's made up inside this never-ending dream world. He's forgotten who he is, or was, and even questions if he should leave this coma-state or return to the real living world.

Political cartoonist Nicholas Garland, and Alex Garland's father, illustrated the book. The illustrations are heavy, bold-lined, black and white wood cuts and open each chapter. While the text could certainly stand on its own, the illustrations do increase the odd, languid dream-like quality of the book.

Between the illustrations and large-format text, this novella is a quick but very provocative and memorable book. It's the first thing I've read by him, unless you count the film script for 28 Days Later, and this definitely presses me to seek out more.


LadyLitBlitzin said...

Wow, this sounds really cool. It definitely sounds like something that a writer could really go far with. I'm also impressed that somebody got a novella published... I know I posted recently about whether one could even get a novella published because it seems a niche market -- unless you're Stephen King or Joyce Carol Oates or something.

Interesting that he wrote "28 Days Later" -- I loved that movie. Much more thought-provoking than your usual zombie fare, I thought.

Hebdomeros said...

Yeah, I really liked that movie. I even remember watching it and thinking that it was structured more like a novel than a movie, especially with the Heart of Darkness/Apocolypse Now kind of ending. Now I know why.