Having not read any of Tom McCarthy's previous works, but having read a number of newspaper reviews of this book, I expected to never want to read it. Christopher Taylor in the Guardian chose to highlight that "McCarthy speaks the language of post-humanism. His allegiance is to the French nouveau roman and post-structuralist modes of thought..." etc , so I'd already decided it was likely to be a pile of pretentious waffle. However, at a loose end in a bookshop a few days ago I picked it up, read the first few pages, realised my preconceptions were probably wide of the mark, bought it, took it home and read it in one sitting.
The first thing to note is that C is a very enjoyable read. The comic element comes through on nearly every page, and McCarthy's permanent style of `show' rather than `tell' means that you have that slightly smug satisfaction when you 'get' the obscure jokes. A lot of the jokes are pretty dark, and reading some of the chapters felt a bit like listening to an episode of Chris Morris's underrated radio series 'Blue Jam'.
And it's not just the comic element that works this way - McCarthy manages to pack the book with literary and artistic references, and only very occasionally does it feel forced. These references fall into three categories; the ones that the reader will spot and understand the reference (in my case, very few), the ones that the reader will spot and have no idea why it is being eluded to (quite a few), and the ones that the reader misses altogether (probably lots more). One could easily re-read this book three or four times and still only get a fraction of the references. It's like reading a good book and doing a cryptic crossword at the same time. Fun, if you like that sort of thing.
I'm sure academic readers of literature will understand and enjoy this book on a much deeper level than me, but for someone more used to genre fiction and trashy paperbacks to read this in one sitting must be some kind of endorsement. Don't be put off by the overly intellectual discussions - McCarthy has managed to be clever, and let the reader feel clever, without sacrificing the quality of the storyline.
(NB - According to some websites this book isn't released until 5th August? My copy is a signed copy, which makes me think that the shop I bought it from had recently had a pre-release signing session).