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41 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A journey through language, history and geography.
The other reviews here left me a little puzzled, perhaps the readers found Sinclair a tad intimidating? I don't say this to be unkind, as at times, I too had to put the book down to take some respite from the barrage of information, images and references. This is more than just a piece of travel writing, it is the nexus of an almost overwhelming number of intertextual as...
Published on 23 Jun 2004 by Astolath

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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but hard going at times
London Orbital deserves the praise it's received - it's well-written, interesting and stays in the mind beyond the last page. However - it's not always an easy, comfortable read. Sinclair paints a realistic, harsh picture of the environment he encounters on his trek around the M25 - there is little light relief to the darkness of urban sprawls, murky property deals,...
Published on 25 Feb 2008 by Jl Adcock


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41 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A journey through language, history and geography., 23 Jun 2004
By 
This review is from: London Orbital (Paperback)
The other reviews here left me a little puzzled, perhaps the readers found Sinclair a tad intimidating? I don't say this to be unkind, as at times, I too had to put the book down to take some respite from the barrage of information, images and references. This is more than just a piece of travel writing, it is the nexus of an almost overwhelming number of intertextual as well as geographic explorations. Iain Sinclair walked, not just through the physical locations he describes, but also through time, history and the sheer abstract. His wanderings as a modern day flaneur are inciteful, educated and hugely original. The story of a hike around the M25 really shouldn't be interesting, but Sinclair makes it so. He opens our eyes to the political and historical reality of the gradually increasing sprawl of London, as well as its psychological effects on modern life. I read this and then graduated to the even more intimidating 'Landor's Tower'. I'd recommend both highly, but unless you're widely read, you may have a little trouble keeping up with Sinclair's train of thought. He doesn't insult his readers, he assumes a high level of intelligence. A breath of fresh air in these times of trashy faddish novels and celebrity autobiographies...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Superb book., 2 May 2012
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This review is from: London Orbital (Paperback)
Brilliant and interesting look at the M25's hold on London and the surrounding area.
A great incite into things you probably drove,walked or cycled past and never gave a second thought.
Disturbing,inciteful and funny.Buy it.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but hard going at times, 25 Feb 2008
By 
Jl Adcock "John Adcock" (Ashtead UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: London Orbital (Paperback)
London Orbital deserves the praise it's received - it's well-written, interesting and stays in the mind beyond the last page. However - it's not always an easy, comfortable read. Sinclair paints a realistic, harsh picture of the environment he encounters on his trek around the M25 - there is little light relief to the darkness of urban sprawls, murky property deals, criminality, insanity and retail parks that seems to form the bulk of the book.

I know part of his route very well - living quite close to Junction 9 of the motorway and knowing something of the history and geography of the Epsom/Leatherhead area. Even here, in what I consider to be pleasant surroundings, there are dark deeds to be uncovered by Sinclair and his band of wonderful eccentrics who trek around the motorway with him.

At the end of the book, I felt as if I'd literally done the journey with him. A worthy, intelligent book - but not your average skim read in terms of travel writing. It's much more intense than that.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Rolling English Road it's not..., 4 Feb 2009
This review is from: London Orbital (Paperback)
"London Orbital" is the first work from Iain Sinclair that I have tackled. To be honest, I wondered at the beginning of this extraordinary journey, whether I was going to make it. But after a few weeks, I have reached the end, my brain in a similar condition to the state of one of Sinclair's unfortunate walking companion's feet.

It took me a long time to get into not only what this book is, but the way it is written. In some ways, it reminded me of Sebald's "Rings of Saturn" - a train of consciousness triggered by a physical journey - but there are major differences. Sebald's wanderings (mental and physical) are alone and introverted, while Sinclair's journey is very much in company. It probably didn't help me that Sinclair's book and journey starts and ends at the point of the M25 that is least known to me - the North East.

However, I persisted and certainly felt rewarded. Once I realised that you don't have to "get" all the references - and these days, you can always do a quick Google if you really want to follow them up - I joined in to encounter a succession of extraordinary images, from deserted Victorian mental asylums, to boggy wastelands, to garden suburbs, to technology parks and retail developments to greasy spoon cafes. Woven into these landscapes is the human history and detail - truly fascinating. The sections that I enjoyed the most concentrated on what is for me familiar territory in the South-Western stretches of the motorway.

I could have done - as in Sebald's book - with a few photos and illustrations (even a map!), though I expect these are to be found in the hardback edition. And there is rather too much repetition, but overall, a very rewarding, unique and fascinating read.
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28 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Astonishing, fascinating, couldn't put it down, 21 Nov 2002
Knowing Sinclair as a brilliant, if sometimes knotty, writer, I wasn't sure he was going to pull this idea off. He chose to walk around the M.25, sometimes accompanied by various eccentric friends, sometimes encountering eccentrics along the way. The road, as in certain famous American books, actually provides the narrative and dynamic. You keep reading, just as you might keep walking or driving -- just to see what's around the next turn and the next. This is a fascinating mix of fact, poetic inspiration and commentary on the state of our country, especially as exemplified by London. It mourns the death of history, the corruption of our humanity, just as it tells us things we never knew about London's fringes. Why, for intance, were all the mad houses set where they were? What mysterious, maybe poisonous factories are located there? Who inhabits this strange, previously unremarked wasteland? Sinclair's prose is laconic,
poetic and utterly engaging. I thought this would be a book I would dip into now and again. Instead I found myself refusing food and sleep until I had finished it. It has something in common with Cobbett, just as Sinclair seems to have much in common with those eighteenth century writers who took an interest in EVERYTHING. Some of his usual heroes are here - Ballard, the
poet of the motorways, Moorcock, the visionary explorer of unknown London alleys - but the book has a freshness of vision and prose which invigorates or reinvigorates everything he talks about.
The quality of paper and binding should also be mentioned. Few books, these days, are as well made and, like Sinclair's sturdy
prose, built to last for centuries!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reversing demonic energies, 21 July 2011
By 
G. J. Marsh (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: London Orbital (Paperback)
Iain Sinclair and his band of merry pranksters circumnavigate the M25 in an attempt to exorcise the bad vibes of the Thatcher and Blair regimes. No-one writes quite like Sinclair, and all his familiar psychogeographical tropes are here in what is probably his magnum opus. This is a book about peripheries and hidden knowledge, cast aside to the boundaries by politicians who have no interest in history or the significance of place. These forgotten, ghostly edgelands are expertly revealed in Sinclair's crackling, often hilarious, prose. A fascinating book. Highly recommended.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Outer Limits Explored, 25 Jun 2013
By 
RL Cloherty (Birmingham, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: London Orbital (Paperback)
A fascinating exploration of London's outer suburbs and surrounding areas. These often amazing real stories are well realised and clearly written by someone who cares. For example the various stories of the asylums around London such as the Epsom Triangle are worthy of a whole book. Despite its length this book is never boring.
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29 of 39 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Gave it the cold (hard) Shoulder, 16 May 2010
By 
tallpete33 (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: London Orbital (Paperback)
Living a stone's throw from the M25 and being a keen walker and (not so keen) M25 marauder I was quite looking forward to this, the book having occupied my shelf for a few years since purchase.

After several unfulfilling hours I soon realised why it had remained untouched for so long. To be honest, it's just a big ramble (no pun intended) and rant about whatever random thought jumped into the authors head from Maggie to Tone, unscrupulous developers, the Millennium Dome (a good 15 miles from the M25) you name it, Sinclair has a long drawn out opinion on it. It was about 100 pages in before the M25 was physically reached, the author making his way there via the Lea Valley (see other rants) with two virtually silent companions - Unabomber creator and the so-clever bloke from KLF who supposedly burnt a million quid for the sake of it. You judge a man by the company he keeps I guess.

Call me old-fashioned but I thought this would be an interesting account of the journey with factual background added for interest but this is about Iain Sinclair demonstrating his use of big words and total lack of humour. No banter, no laughs, nothing. I gave up after about a third of the way through when the author had travelled about 150 yards along the motorway, or at least I think he had. It was difficult to tell and I was well past caring by then...
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars London Orbital, 27 April 2008
This review is from: London Orbital (Paperback)
Its some time since I read London Orbital so perhaps this review is not as precise as it should be, and gives my memory of reading it. I was astounded. This book is a scorching criticism of modern planning, modern mores, modern waste, modern carelessness. At the same time it is a beautiful look at the history and the natural landscape that no amount of bureaucratic and money-oriented nonsense can crush. I was incredibly moved by Sinclair's insight. This should be a compulsory text for all sixth formers and university students, all council employees, all members of government, all people submitting planning applications and no doubt many more, to read and from which to learn.
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44 of 63 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Driven round the bend, 13 Dec 2006
By 
Mr. Christian Hoskins (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: London Orbital (Paperback)
I am afraid I have to agree with the reviewers who didn't like "London Orbital". I originally skimmed through the book in a bookshop and it didn't appeal to me. However, a friend bought a copy for me as a gift and so I ended up reading it.

Firstly, "London Orbital" says surprisingly little about the M25 itself. Anyone interested in the history of how a major motorway came to be built in the green belt surrounding London or seeking an analysis of the effect it has had on local communities in terms of transport, economics and the environment will be disappointed. Instead, Sinclair uses the general location of the M25 as an excuse to write about anything in the area which takes his fancy.

Unfortunately this includes a lot of things which are speculative or just gossip. A good example is Sinclair's account of the housing development at Enfield Island Village. For nearly 200 years the land was previously occupied by the Enfield Royal Small Arms Factory. Sinclair drops dark hints that the land the housing is built on may be contaminated with chemicals or even radioactivity from the factory. However, it appears that the only source for this information is a conversation with a local resident who once knew someone who worked in the factory. Sinclair doesn't actually seem to have done any proper research into this subject, which is disappointing.

The Island Village issue is typical of the negativity and cynicism in this book. However, I didn't find much humour, and it all gets a bit wearying after a while. I was also wearied by the writing style which consists mainly of short sentences and missing verbs. At first this is fresh and original, but soon becomes a major headache.

Negative reviews such as this one tend to be rated badly by other Amazon reviewers, but I can only report on how I found the book. To be honest, I couldn't finish it. I thought it was terrible.
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London Orbital
London Orbital by Iain Sinclair (Paperback - 2 Oct 2003)
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