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Strange Bodies [Paperback]

Marcel Theroux
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
RRP: 7.99
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Book Description

6 Mar 2014

Nicholas Slopen has been dead for months. So when a man claiming to be Nicholas turns up to visit an old girlfriend, deception seems the only possible motive.

Yet nothing can make him change his story.

From the secure unit of a notorious psychiatric hospital, he begins to tell his tale: an account of attempted forgery that draws the reader towards an extraordinary truth - a metaphysical conspiracy that lies on the other side of madness and death.

Strange Bodies takes the reader on a dizzying speculative journey that poses questions about identity, authenticity, and what it means to be truly human.


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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (6 Mar 2014)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 0571279805
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571279807
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.6 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 127,084 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

A chilling and thrilling parable for our times. (Observer, Paperback of the Week)

The unfolding of the narrative is genuinely eerie, but the richness of allusion and elegance of design as much an enquiry into language and identity as a high-concept literary thriller. Its exploration of human vulnerability, the notion that consciousness may be no more than "a trick of the light", is moving as well as though-provoking, as elegiac as it is gripping. (Justine Jordan Guardian)

Ingenious and captivating. (Sunday Business Post)

This is a superb technological fantasy, a tense thriller and a brilliantly imagined debate about the relationship between body and soul. Wonderful. (The Times)

A compelling story that bends concepts of reality while keeping a grip on the most sceptical reader . . . A chilling thriller. (Independent)

What if a person could survive past his bodily death, to be reconstituted in another form? That is the question Marcel Theroux explores in this wondrous, uncanny novel . . . Funny and blood-curdling at the same time. (James Gleick New York Review of Books)

An absorbing and disturbing metaphysical tale, challenging everything we believe about what it means to be human. (John Gray, author of Straw Dogs)

Book Description

It started when Nicky Slopen came back from the dead...

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Language, identity, humanity 29 May 2013
By Joanne Sheppard TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
In an age when our written words are more publicly available than ever, thanks to blogging, social networking, self-published e-books and internet message boards, Marcel Theroux's Strange Bodies presents us with a prospect that seems even more sinister than it otherwise might: the notion that our personalities, our consciousness, our very being, could be reproduced solely from our written output.

Told through a combination of written forms including a psychiatrist's case notes and the memoir of one of her patients, Strange Bodies explores some expansive themes, including identity, our thirst for immortality, scientific ethics and what really makes us the people we are.

Like Theroux's dystopian novel Far North, Strange Bodies has many of the trappings of science-fiction, but this is almost incidental - genre-wise, this is literary fiction more akin to, say, Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go or the speculative works of Margaret Atwood than full-on sci-fi. The plot has all the drive and thrust of a thriller, with Nicholas Slopen, an academic whose specialism is the life and work of Samuel Johnson, finding himself pulled into a dangerous scientific conspiracy growing from a seed planted in the former Soviet Union, but Strange Bodies is much more than that. It's also a thought-provoking novel about language and how it shapes our identities and relationships.

Nicholas is a convincingly inept hero with numerous faults, although his growing awareness of them and his increasingly heightened understanding as the story unfolds mean it's impossible for the reader not to sympathise with him, often deeply, and his relationship with Jack, an outwardly brutish savant with a seemingly unique talent, is perhaps one of the most touching elements of the book.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'What makes me, me? What makes you, you?' 30 April 2013
By FictionFan TOP 100 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover
When Nicholas Slopen turns up at the shop of an old friend, she is stunned. He looks completely different, his voice is different but, most surprisingly of all, she'd heard he'd died the year before. And yet once they start talking, she is soon convinced that it is indeed he.

This intelligent and very well written book poses the question - what makes us, us? Can we be defined, summed up, by the words we speak? What if we are sundered irrevocably from all our relationships - personal, professional, social: are we still us?

Our narrator, known as Q by his psychiatrist but calling himself Dr Nicholas Slopen, relates his story from the secure facility of the Royal Bethlehem Hospital (a descendant of Bedlam) to where he has been sectioned. Since Dr Slopen died the year before, and the authorities have his body and autopsy photographs to prove it, and since Q looks nothing like him, he is considered to be suffering from a delusion. But he has all Dr Slopen's memories and an explanation of how he has become who - or what - he is. An explanation so fantastical that he understands why no-one will believe him...

Dr Slopen's story begins when he is asked to use his expertise to authenticate some letters apparently written by Samuel Johnson. He is entirely convinced by the handwriting and content that these letters can only be genuine, but they are written on paper that wouldn't have been available to Johnson. From this beginning, the author takes us on an investigation into identity, individuality and authenticity that is entertaining and unsettling in equal measure. Theroux weaves notions of psychiatry, philosophy, science and politics into a story where the human motivations become scarily believable even while the central point remains deliberately incredible.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Literary Science Fiction in South London 13 May 2013
Format:Hardcover
A taut piece of literary science fiction; a witty philosophical jeu d'esprit; a profound meditation on mortality and fatherhood; a London thriller; Strange Bodies is all of these and more.
It starts with the reappearance of a dead man, or rather a man who claims to be the incarnation of a someone who is dead - the catch being that the revenant in question does not actually resemble the deceased.
How did "Nicky Slopen" - if it is he - come to inhabit another man's body? The answer involves a circuitous and highly entertaining journey into a world of shadowy international gangsters and semi-detached suburbanites in Tooting, taking in the thrills of a cloak-and-dagger investigation and the routine heartbreaks of adultery and divorce.
I confess I have a soft spot for well-crafted genre novels - and also that I have relationship with the author (he's my brother). But those two caveats notwithstanding, Strange Bodies is a superb book: well-paced, full of true-to-life observations, beautifully written and highly inventive.
The themes are developed with wonderful delicacy and the narrative takes in a trove of fascinating bits of historical esoterica from all over the world. The more fantastical elements never feel forced but serve instead to explore the oldest questions of the human condition: the soul's imprisonment in the body, the aging process, the nature of insanity, the inevitability of loss and the redemption of love. Strange Bodies bears comparison with some of my favourite books - Peter Carey's My Life as a Fake, Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go, evoking a more benign Michel Houellebecq, or a longer-form H.P. Lovecraft...
If any of these are remotely your cup of tea, you are guaranteed to enjoy Strange Bodies.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars a good idea poorly executed
Theroux's intentions are clear from the outset, to explore the nature and meaning of consciousness, personality and memory ; however this novel largely fails to do so in anything... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Imogen Billings
2.0 out of 5 stars Quite a laborious read...
A confusing step out into the world of incarnation. Although not my cup of tea, felt I had to get to the anti climax of an end.
Published 1 month ago by Michael Pelling
4.0 out of 5 stars Odd but good
At times I had difficulty in following this but as I persevered I became more engaged and ultimately was enthralled. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Marge
4.0 out of 5 stars 'It's alive, it's alive!'
This latest take on the Frankenstein theme is a thoroughly entertaining albeit unconvincing read. Marcel Theroux writes with enviable fluency and his narrator grows on you - though... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Norman Housley
4.0 out of 5 stars Funny, sad philosophical
Literary mimd romp. Funny, sad philosophical.
Published 1 month ago by Penelope E
5.0 out of 5 stars A sad, haunting and compelling journey into the depths of the human...
I haven't read any of Marcel Theroux's other books, but it's hard to think that he could have written something better than this. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Mr. T. J. Barnard
4.0 out of 5 stars Compelling
I found I couldn't put this down. It got more intriguing as it evolved from a mystery to a somewhat old fashioned science fiction melodrama to, ultimately, a telling and moving... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Tim
2.0 out of 5 stars Strange Bodies Strange Book
Well I managed to finish it so it gets a two rather than a one. However it was boring, slow moving, predictable and well smattered with words that either send you diving for a fat... Read more
Published 4 months ago by pantodame
4.0 out of 5 stars Strange Bodies
When Susanna Laidlaw-Robinson receives an unexpected visit from her ex-boyfriend Nicky Slopen she’s more than a little surprised – she had, after all, heard that Nicky had died in... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Erin Britton
5.0 out of 5 stars Mary Shelley meets Simon Callow!
Beautifully written, a poignant, contemporary take on Frankenstein's monster with a literary twist. I highly recommend this book to all.
Published 5 months ago by Camhsclinician
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