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36 Reviews
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mad as a badger, and all the better for it...
I don't know how he does it, but Magnus Mills captures the dull emptiness of the unexamined life without turning the reader off. This book might be hard going for the first few pages but before long you'll be purring with pleasure even if you don't know why. A guy plans to motorcycle to India but ends up playing darts and delivering milk instead. He buys baked beans...
Published on 28 May 2000

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3.0 out of 5 stars Quite entertaining
Three and a Half Stars. Quite entertaining.

Ignoring the staggeringly over-zealous hype surrounding Mr Mills' novels, this is a mildly entertaining first-person description of a holiday outing to the Lakes which takes a turn for the odd. Not "insanely, psychedelically weird" but just a little odd. The writing style is casual and laid back-to the point of...
Published on 10 Mar. 2013 by Zak

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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mad as a badger, and all the better for it..., 28 May 2000
By A Customer
I don't know how he does it, but Magnus Mills captures the dull emptiness of the unexamined life without turning the reader off. This book might be hard going for the first few pages but before long you'll be purring with pleasure even if you don't know why. A guy plans to motorcycle to India but ends up playing darts and delivering milk instead. He buys baked beans. He'd like some biscuits but the shop is out of stock. Stuff happens, but not much. But the book grows ever more creepy and weird while never letting on that anything is happening, until you get to the end and realise how utterly strange, compelling and mad it all was. From the grim banality of the dullest lives imaginable he slowly conjures up a dark, feral bad-dream world that seems more real than life no matter what bizarre events happen. The only current writer I can compare him to is George Saunders of "Civilwarland in Bad Decline", but Mills is even more low key and deadpan, creating delicious madness from the most unpromising material imaginable.
It's a rare book that leaves you both very satisfied and thinking "what the ****ing hell was that all about?" And this is it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars All Quiet, 13 May 2006
By 
B. Davison "donutboy2k" (Glasgow, Scotland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
It certainly will be all quiet on the Orient Express, because the main character of this book will never get there!

Having been all ready to leave the campsite where he had spent his holiday to embark on a tour of the Far East, the unnamed narrator finds himself sticking around to help out with various tasks around the place. But this soon escalates until he is being roped in to every kind of job by the mysterious Mr. Parker (and his daughter). As more and more time passes, he finds it harder and harder to say 'no' to anything asked of him, and it becomes clear to the reader that he is stuck as the servant of the aforementioned Mr. Parker. The theme of being stuck in an allegory of manual work (which, despite the protestations of a previous reviewer, does make sense) then comes to the fore, and the reader is increasingly unnerved by the narrator's plight, and is curious as to the significance of various symbols, such as the cardboard crown. (I found the answer a bit of a disappointment). As the book draws to a close, it becomes obvious that the narrator now works on a virtually permanent basis for Mr. Parker, who wobbles on the edge of extreme anger at the mistakes of his young 'protege'.

Having praised the novel for its brilliance at conveying such a convincing allegory, however, it falls to me to say that the book does seem to constantly build up the reader's hopes only to eventually offer what I found to be a rather sudden and disappointing conclusion. But then maybe that was the point. He will never escape, so why should we be able to? As to whether you should buy it, I'd say that if you don't understand what an 'allegory of labour and capital' means, then don't! If you think you might, then go for it!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Odd jobs for odd bods, 1 May 2006
By 
Expect no journeys to Eastern Europe in All Quiet on the Orient Express. I will give very little away if I say that the narrator finishing his last few days of his camping holiday in the Lakes never departs. Blessed or cursed with a dab hand for odd jobs and a good nature, the hapless holidaymaker little-by-little finds himself put to work and unable to escape the mysterious village community where he finds himself stuck. Not one for fancy descriptions, Mills instead combines a great ear for dialogue with a sly sense of humour. Both are in evidence again here. One particular highlight which springs to mind is when the local shopkeeper starts bemoaning 'the people who come in here asking for things'. These qualities buoy the tale along as the plot surrounding the lake thickens for the stranded tourist. Why is everyone so keen for him to take over Deakin's milk round? What is the significance of Bryan's cardboard crown that he inexplicably sports at all times? When will the landlord finally accept payment for his spiralling tab?

A star-off for similarities with The Restraint of Beasts storyline, this is nevertheless another page-turning, thought-provoking good'un by Mills.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lond awaited antidote to overlong epics, 12 July 2001
By A Customer
What is amazing about this book is just how little of it there is. Mills doesn't waste words describing every pointless little detail, creating beautifully tight prose. Even the protagonists name is omitted - but so what? What difference does it make whether it is John or Jack or Peter or whatever? Other reviewers claim that this makes the book unevocative, shorn of individuality. Rubbish. Instead the sparse writing leaves your imagination room to create connections, giving the book a wonderfully brooding and almost surreal feel. The protagonist says 'Hi' to his landlord, but because it is so underwritten, you read in sinister undercurrents to the exchange. You are also more aware of themes and motifs, which helps set up a wonderful twist. A fantastic book, well worth buying.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Quite entertaining, 10 Mar. 2013
By 
Zak (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Three and a Half Stars. Quite entertaining.

Ignoring the staggeringly over-zealous hype surrounding Mr Mills' novels, this is a mildly entertaining first-person description of a holiday outing to the Lakes which takes a turn for the odd. Not "insanely, psychedelically weird" but just a little odd. The writing style is casual and laid back-to the point of turning into a blog entry with grammar an optional extra. (I admit that my grammar is not of the highest order, but I am not a professional writer charging for writing this review!) The characters are entertainingly described but are never fleshed out as the narrator drifts from one set-piece "happening" to the next.

I was expecting "Darkly Surreal" and was presented with "faintly unsettling" - consider the slightly odd feeling you get when a dog stares at you in a strange fashion. I would have preferred it had the dog started tap-dancing and singing show-tunes.
Expectations were of Flann O'Brien while the result was more Alan Bennet. Not necessarily a bad thing and, overall, this very slim volume kept me entertained for a couple of hours.

Other reviewers have mentioned a twist at the end. Don't wait with bated breath. The end is telegraphed fairly obviously from the first quarter of the book, trundling on to its inevitable climax. My personal opinion is that this inevitability was, after all, the point of the story. Ah well, each reader sees every novel in a different light.

The critical reviews of a novel would not normally make up any part of a further book review but, in this case, they cannot be ignored as they make up the first six pages (yes, SIX PAGES) of the the rather slim paperback edition which I purchased.

The over-effusive and cloying tone of the critics' gushing praise has the feel of the annual book critics' orgy of brown-nosing and mutual pleasuring which accompanies the run-up to the Booker Prize shortlist. I would suspect that, had Mr Mills' first novel not been put forward for the Booker, then the critics might have been considerably less voluble and fawning in their praise for "All Quiet..."

I would recommend to any potential purchasers that they read this book before wading through the newspaper reviews. This will save a good half-hour of tedium as a vast number of self-appointed worthies take fawning condescension to new levels as they compete to outdo each other in an ever-escalating battle of sycophantic prose. Following this you WILL be expecting The Greatest Story Ever Told and no novel could live up to this.

Judge the novel on its own merits rather than reading critical reviews and you won't be disappointed.

*Oh, and to any Fanboys who might feel they must flame me for daring not to give 5 stars - please - go away and get a life.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tourist Trap, 28 Jun. 2001
By 
This review is from: All Quiet on the Orient Express (Paperback)
If Mills is the future of British literature, then we are in very safe hands. A tale of an outsider given a chance to become one of the village's own. He takes on tasks put in front of him, lusts(quietly) for his landlord's daughter and becomes a member of the local pub's darts team. You feel throughout the book that the hero will suffer the wrath of his employer. This dormaint feeling never really rears it's head and it's because of this that you find yourself warming to the quirks of the village characters. Mills is spot on with his take on an out-of-season tourist spot. By placing the tale at the end of the season, it really brings home how a thriving village suddenly loses it's sparkle when all the money has gone home. Weird this may be but it's all the better for it. 5 stars and that's just for the paper crown.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing, 30 Jun. 2004
By 
M. Hutchinson - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: All Quiet on the Orient Express (Paperback)
I am surprised by the general lack of support for this book among the reviews. The world created is deadpan, sparse, cold, threatening, strange - a bit like the Lake District on a cold March day, really.
From the first spillage of green paint, the reader is left waiting for something to happen - and whatever the something is, you know you're not going to like it.
But 'it' never comes - which is what makes this book so clever. How Magnus Mills manages to fill every sentance with nuances of threat or helplessness and manages to maintain the pace of an action thriller in a book without action is admirable.
Read it. It'll only take you two hours, but you won't forget it in a hurry..... you better not, because he wouldn't like that. He's got a temper on him, you know.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Shaggy, 4 Dec. 2013
By 
M. Burville - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This is a book which is both easy to read and entertaining in a sort of afternoon television way. It describes the passing days of the hero in a friendly manner surrounded by local odd folk in a sub-Avengers type village. As others have mentioned nothing much happens apart from the entrapment of the young man which means that the story could have been rather dull and unexciting. It is not, mainly because of the writing, but neither is it exciting. It's an amble, a shaggy dog story or an extended anecdote, never witty or funny but never dark or menacing either. It's a little bit of nothing which passes the time comfortably enough but in the end, quite pointless. For me the most disappointing thing is that, having finished the book, there is no sense of satisfaction.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Light hearted and restful, 2 Feb. 2000
The naivety of the book's subject does make you angry as you progress through the book. However , it does capture a very wholesome feel of country living which kept me awake long into the small hours. One for the beach.
Regards PWS
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3.0 out of 5 stars Not bad - for 40p, 17 Nov. 2013
By 
Mr. O. Thomas (London) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I paid 40p for it in the Salvation Army cos I liked the title, the picture on the cover and on the back it mentioned The Restraint of Beasts which I remember finding readable but a bit strange. I read the book from start to finish one Sunday, so it was readable. I kept expecting more to happen than actually did, it kept showing promise, but this was just a tease. The protagonist is a wimp who accepts everything that's dished out to him in a frustratingly pathetic manner. There must be a missing last chapter where he rides into town on a stolen motorbike, with sawn off shotgun blasting those who have slighted him before setting fire to Parker's farm, grabbing Gail and riding off with her on pillion. Good value for 40p though.
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All Quiet on the Orient Express
All Quiet on the Orient Express by Magnus Mills (Paperback - 3 July 2000)
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