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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Li of the land.
Well, well, well. Lionel Asbo has certainly caused something of a stir amongst the Amazon reviewing community. For what it's worth - and this review will be so far down as to never be seen - I found it to be Shamelessly enjoyable.

Film and tv viewers of such programmes as Shameless are certainly inured to seeing (hmm, how shall I put this?) the underclass (if...
Published on 3 Dec 2012 by Sue Kichenside

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Amis: the decline continues.
I got about half way through this wearisome yarn before abandoning it. In my judgement Amis has produced nothing worth reading since "London Fields" and "The Information". "Lionel Asbo" sustains the decline. There are a few decent jokes but overall there is nothing to sustain interest. The principal characters never convince and if there's anything...
Published 10 months ago by John Frum


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Amis: the decline continues., 7 Feb 2014
This review is from: Lionel Asbo: State of England (Paperback)
I got about half way through this wearisome yarn before abandoning it. In my judgement Amis has produced nothing worth reading since "London Fields" and "The Information". "Lionel Asbo" sustains the decline. There are a few decent jokes but overall there is nothing to sustain interest. The principal characters never convince and if there's anything resembling a plot, rather than a lurching series of set-pieces, I didn't manage to stay awake long enough to discover it. And there's something distasteful about Amis' unconvincing impersonation of underclass life.
Garbage.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Li of the land., 3 Dec 2012
By 
Sue Kichenside - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
Well, well, well. Lionel Asbo has certainly caused something of a stir amongst the Amazon reviewing community. For what it's worth - and this review will be so far down as to never be seen - I found it to be Shamelessly enjoyable.

Film and tv viewers of such programmes as Shameless are certainly inured to seeing (hmm, how shall I put this?) the underclass (if that would be acceptable?) portrayed on the screen. But in a book, not so much. Martin Amis clearly had fun writing this and why should he not? We all have the right to write what we like these days so I really don't see why he should be decried for doing so. Why the fuss?

Bad luck for Amis, though, that the publication of this book more or less coincided with the government's announcement of a proposal to replace ASBOs with a "criminal behaviour order" (nicknamed "crimbo" in the media). Thus, the moment the book came out, it appeared to be immediately behind the zeitgeist. Timing is everything. But it doesn't really matter whether the book is relevant to our times or whether it tells us anything about the state of the nation. The question is: is it a good read? For my money, the book is a blast.

Others have covered the plot but it bears repeating that the main protagonist, violent, amoral Uncle Li, lacks a single redeeming quality; you have to be prepared for the fact that there are no concessions to likeability here. Then there's his mum who has a penchant for young boys and the Telegraph cryptic crossword. His long-suffering, academically brilliant nephew Des, the moral heart of the book. Plus sundry other unsavoury characters whose names are a hoot (as you'd expect from Amis). And then there are the dogs.

Jokes, when they come, are laugh out loud funny and the writing is glorious. Exuberant, even. The thing about Martin Amis never writing a cliché has, in itself, become a cliché. Oh, the irony.
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45 of 52 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Out of touch, 25 Jun 2012
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To write about the Underclass, a writer must surely have some knowledge or experience of it, even if all it amounts to is a week or two hanging out in some low-life pub. I'm not going to give a summary of the plot: there are some excellent ones here already. I'll just say that the plot is an engaging one, and Amis a consummate storyteller. Where he falls down, in my opinion, is that he doesn't make me believe in his characters. It's not clear whether he intends them to be outlandish caricatures of benefits scroungers, thugs and teenage mothers. (David Cameron and George Osborne may have picked up their ideas from the same sources.)"Lionel Asbo" is also full of anachronisms. For example, at what sink comprehensive were boys wearing shorts and purple blazers as recently as 2006? Surely a 15-year-old has a mobile phone, even if s/he has nothing else? (Most of the 8-year-olds I know have them.) The book sometimes reads like a poor, contrived pastiche of Dickens, funny surnames, street names and all. Where Amis excels is in his ability to convey a character's physical features in a small number of words, and his beautiful use of simile and metaphor: the sun, in one passage, is fixed in the sky like a gilt tack. "Lionel Asbo" is an enjoyable read, but that isn't enough. I failed to engage with his characters; they seemed rather pathetic, and in the end I didn't really care what happened to them.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars What is Amis playing at?, 27 Mar 2013
By 
M. READ (London) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This is a genuine question. My first reaction--clearly shared by many other reviewers--was that he has completely lost the plot. Unlike Amis, I live in central London, and until recently worked with adolescents. The portrayal of characters and social context bear no relationship to reality--or rather, a grossly distorted one. This horror of working class urban life seems to run through Amis's work--perhaps he ought to try living somewhere really tough!

and yet....I didn't throw the book aside in disgust, though I was tempted to after fifty pages or so. His plotting and writing are sufficiently engaging to keep the reader interested. It appears to me that he's attempting a Dickensian approach: social satire by exaggeration and caricature. There are three reasons why this doesn't work:
1) although a lively and inventive writer, he's no genius
2) Dickens did at least know the world he depicted at first hand
3) Although Dickens is marred by sentimentality, this at least suggests some generosity of spirit, which Amis (or his authorial persona) seems mostly lacking in.

That said, it's not a waste of time. Over the past few years, there's been a lot of Amis-baiting, but at least he writes lively and accessible novels that don't play safe.
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3.0 out of 5 stars An interesting spin on country house fiction., 11 Dec 2014
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I read this book as I was doing a study at the time on English Country Houses as a metaphor for the state of the nation and a book about a man who buys a country pile after winning the lottery entitled "Lionel Asbo: State of the Nation" seemed pertinent. It was useful to the study and shows nicely how the country house as a setting in literature continues to be a convenient box to shove all kinds of themes into, It was also a bit disappointing. I liked Des (what's not to like) mainly because the author intended we like him. I hated Lionel (what is to like?) mainly because the author intends we hate him. I could also see that Lionel was a kind of emblem for a certain aspect of England in our time. However, there was equally something I didn't like about this book as a work of fiction - it read as a bit artificial to me - Lionel was too much, and it was all a bit overkill. I kept waiting and waiting for justice to find Lionel, but it never did. Even when justice did catch up with him and he went to prison, Lionel was glad to be there, because it was a good place to sort his head out ("Prison, said Lionel. Good place to get you head sorted out. You know where you are in prison. Well yeah, thought Des. You're in prison." p. 123. I also kept waiting for the storyline to develop around the character who Lionel organised to be "sold" (his name escapes me, sorry) but it never did. The ending was unsatisfactory (probably because it wasn't neat enough for me). I know some people will say that there's something wrong with expecting a neat ending in a world which is less than satisfactory - but I do like to have that happy ending in fiction - as, even today, I think most people do. This wasn't for me - it was too bleak, too grubby and too messy. Still, it was an interesting spin on country house fiction.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lionel Asbo: State of England, 18 Oct 2012
By 
Dave Gilmour's cat (on Dave Gilmour's boat) - See all my reviews
I think this book has been unfairly criticized. Agree that it's not as sharp as Money or London Fields. Likewise, it's not as poignant or expansive as The Pregnant Widow. But it's certainly no turkey, like Yellow Dog was. It's a funny, clever satire that examines celebrity, wealth, class, family, and relationships in 21st-century England. It's a state-of-the-nation novel that contains some dazzling phrases and sentences.

While there are motifs repeated from his other books, he does this so well that it doesn't matter. And he never resorts to cliché.

Is it among his very best? No. Is it worth reading? Yes.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Merely OK, 21 July 2013
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One gets the feeling that Martin Amis has spent the last 25 years trying to recreate the genius of "London Fields", one of the best novels ever written. So we get Lionel Asbo, a reincarnation of Keith Talent from the former novel, but he's not very funny and not in the least bit sympathetic (Keith's constant failures made you root for him, even if only in the darts matches). Baby Cilla is basically Kim Talent. The novel only focuses on the life of one dysfunctional family and doesn't head off into the metaphorical world situation and astrophysics like the older novel, which gave it its power and depth. The "shock" event at the end is an anticlimax (Amis is obviously mellowing with age) unlike the delicious twists at the end of "Money" and "London Fields". And anyone who quotes Baha Men in the part-titles is getting a bit desperate.

There isn't a whole lot of plot; Des, a nice guy through and through, goes through the novel unscathed and pretty much unaffected by wehatever Lionel gets up to, as does his partner Dawn. Lionel spends a lot of money but makes a lot more; the worst that happens is that his unhealthy lifestyle starts to catch up with him. The minor characters aren't especially well-drawn, although I liked Grace's ability to talk in cryptic crossword clues. As usual with Amis' work, the odd character names are a barrier to believability although he goes to some lengths to explain them in this novel.

What the novel shows is that Amis can still write well but he seems to have lost touch with the world about which he's writing. For "London Fields" he apparently spent ages playing darts in local pubs. Maybe he should have hung around with Michael Carroll, the original "lotto lout".
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Solzhenitsyn, 16 Jun 2013
Having purchased this book yesterday morning, I read all day and into the night, and then I had nightmares. The story is horrible but it's written beautifully ( most of the time; there were parts that needed editing) and the writer has the ability to make the words dance. Its the juxtaposition of the plod plod of everyday living with the descriptions of acute beauty thats almost heartbreaking. But my enjoyment of the book was compromised early on as I could not stop thinking of the fate of the boy who disappeared, Rory, who haunted the book for me. Why didn't Des have more of a guilty conscience about him? Wasnt he complicit? Whenever I read a book by M Amis I'm aware that the impact of Times Arrow is influencing my reading in ways I don't fully understand: my first thought when I pick up an Amis book is, this is by the writer of Times Arrow, and then I read it in that context.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Refreshingly irrational look at the lower echelons of the worst estate in England, 11 May 2013
After reading Money I became an Amis fan but am still waiting to read London Fields. The blurb on the back of Lionel Asbo suggested as simple a concept as the original, Money. Entertaining scumbag wins the lottery about summarises it.

Indeed money is pivotal to this book and those satisfied by "Money", should be well served here. I found the book more accessible as, although set in London, it is "Diston", the worst sink estate in England that provides the environs. While easier for big city types, accessibility is promoted through simply imagining a rough council estate near you. Diston is full of strange, extreme, desperate people and Amis describes them succinctly enough for the busiest, most distracted, reader to really care.

Asbo is a monster. The central charm of the novel is how his young charge, Des Pepperdine, shapes his own path. The classic "nature vs nurture" debate with a modern consideration of class mobility. I won't spoil the story but I enjoyed seeing this done without fabulous amounts of money, despite what the abstract might first have you imagine.

Upon reading other reviews I thought it wise to address the labelling of Amis as a bigot etc, by the national press. Asbo is not representing the working class, though he has/had a career in crime this does not qualify him as working class. I don't want to qualify the reasons and distinctions with the underclass, but that is what Asbo is, senseless and insensible to danger, living only for the moment, as shallow as a TV villain. While his "friends" and relatives are not strangers to honest labour, we can form no such judgements about them, only that they have the misfortune to know such a character as Asbo.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Asbo, no change, 30 Aug 2012
By 
Raymond C. Hodgkinson (uk) - See all my reviews
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Lionel Asbo is an oik and although he wins the lottery he remains essentially the same in and out of prison. He wins a lot of money and the floodgates of wealth open, but the style and behaviour of the past rear the ugly heads. He is just able to indulge his vendettas on a grander scale using fear and prostitution to meet his own ends. Nobody seems able to escape his malign influence. Not even Desmond and Dawn with their university degrees, parental skills and careers.
Before reading it I had hoped for some kind of insight into the underclass, some sort of grid reference beyond the expected drunkenness, aimless violence and pornography. After all Martin Amis has deigned to write a novel about it and I thought he might throw up some redeeming half light, some forgotten truths perhaps. But he is able to evade that responsibility, that particular challenge, by letting Asbo win the lottery. From then on the task of the novellist is easier, the theme of mispent wealth overtakes and smothers the theme of coping and managing in a misbegotten and downtrodden place like Diston Town.
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Lionel Asbo: State of England
Lionel Asbo: State of England by Martin Amis (Paperback - 6 Jun 2013)
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