Friday, July 29, 2011

Explorers Of The New Century - Magnus Mills

 I picked this off the shelf for its brevity, and at 184 pages it is brief! So brief in fact that I managed to read it in the time I got home, until my dinner hit the table! So it is short, concise.....and somewhat strange.

 The novel starts out as an abstract look at the Scott/Amundsen race to the South Pole. Whilst neither of those explorers are actually named, the reader is left in no doubt who the characters are based on. But here things get murky because there is no date mentioned, the continent they are on isn't named, the landscape and climate certainly aren't Antarctic like, and then wham, right in the middle of it all a strange twist takes place.

 I won't go into the twist and spoil the novel for you who may venture into reading it, suffice to say...wt? came to mind!! I've read a number of reviews elsewhere and wt? is a common comment! I don't mind the Scott/Amundsen race to the Pole analogy, but the 'Mules' of the WT? thought were too much, and unfortunately Mills finishes the novel with it all unexplained. I may just be extremely thick ( hence 'an intellectual mediocrity'! ), but this was unsatisfying, because really the twist had no real seeming point.

 The only thing I could figure was it smelt of the Nazis pre-war plan to transport all of Europe's Jews to Madagascar as an answer to their notorious, 'Jewish Question'. But Mills takes it further as one of the surviving 'Mules', comes to realise the reason for the expedition, and slowly turns the expedition in her favour. She and her fellow 'Mules' are initially maligned, ( being at no time identified race wise ), yet she eventually comes to be called 'Princess', and is carried on a litter into her new realm. She has turned the tables on her detractors. It all smells of,  class, racism, bigotry, etc, and yet it is never revealed to be the point. I get he is driving at a 'humanity' angle but he just doesn't bring enough light of his ideas.

  It is all so strange, and frustrating, because even though I like abstract, I don't like the fact that Mills has muddied the abstractness so much as to leave the reader totally confused. In all honesty any reader will be dismissive of the novel over all. I really can't figure it out, or come to any satisfying, or even any half way coherent conclusions about what this novel is about, or saying!! It starts out as any explorer novel would, and when the twist hits I had a double take, and had to read it again!! It took me by surprise, and I then couldn't stop reading as I wanted to get to the 'what's it all about finale'. Sadly there isn't one as such, and it leaves a somewhat bad taste in the mouth at the unsatisfactory ending.

 Strange, very strange. It is an interesting premise but somehow Magnus Mills stuffs it all up. He muddies the waters so much, to the point where there really is no rational rhyme, or reason to the novel at all. Every review I have read on this novel says the same thing. Wt? is it about??!! Overall I can't say, ' yes read this novel', and yet it is worth reading just to see how an author can quite literally 'fuck it up'!!! Since it is a very easy read, I do say give it your consideration, as you'll read it in a matter of a few hours. It is a good example of how to leave your audience hanging, and ultimately alienated.

Amazon has this with 4 out of 5 stars. I personally give it 3/5, solely because of its inconclusiveness after a good start.

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