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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Alas, too short
Unlike many of the other reviewers here, I didn't buy this expecting great literature or stylistic finesse to rival Proust or Henry James. I found what I wanted - an entertaining read that is light without insulting my intelligence, and plenty of humour, not least in the form of parody (possibly missed by reviewer Not_Stoppard?). I raced through this book, enjoying it...
Published on 16 Sep 2012 by J. Wickens

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58 of 58 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Naturally the Foundation will Bear your Expenses
Michael Frayn has said that Skios was a literary experiment to see if a farce could be written as a novel. The premise is that Dr Norman Wilfred, a distinguished academic, is to give a lecture on 'scientometrics' at a research foundation on a Greek island. When Dr Wilfred arrives at the venue, he turns out to be suspiciously young and charming. The explanation is that he...
Published on 11 Dec 2012 by Metropolitan Critic


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58 of 58 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Naturally the Foundation will Bear your Expenses, 11 Dec 2012
This review is from: Skios (Hardcover)
Michael Frayn has said that Skios was a literary experiment to see if a farce could be written as a novel. The premise is that Dr Norman Wilfred, a distinguished academic, is to give a lecture on 'scientometrics' at a research foundation on a Greek island. When Dr Wilfred arrives at the venue, he turns out to be suspiciously young and charming. The explanation is that he is not Dr Wilfred, but Oliver Fox, a floppy-haired Hugh Grant-type character, who decided to impersonate Dr Wilfred after seeing Nikki Hook, the attractive administrator who came to meet the visiting speaker at the airport.

Apart from mistaken identity, many other familiar devices of the genre are present: lost clothing, thwarted romantic designs, preparations for a public event which is bound to go awry. It is all firmly in the Wodehouse tradition.

Skios is elegantly written and, particularly in the first half, pretty funny. Frayn is good on the fatuousness of so many lectures of this type (well captured by the title of Dr Wilfred's talk: 'Innovation and Governance: The Promise of Scientometrics').

But Frayn's literary experiment is not, I think, entirely successful. Although some relaxation of the laws of probability is inevitable in a farce, the events related here go beyond the frontier of the merely improbable into the land of the frankly incredible. Too often the reader finds themselves saying, in Victor Meldrew style, 'I don't believe it!'.

The other weakness is the ending, which is unsatisfying and arbitrary. It is almost as if Frayn simply lost patience with assembling the intricate Swiss watch of his plot and simply threw the thing against the wall.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Alas, too short, 16 Sep 2012
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J. Wickens (Nottingham) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Skios (Hardcover)
Unlike many of the other reviewers here, I didn't buy this expecting great literature or stylistic finesse to rival Proust or Henry James. I found what I wanted - an entertaining read that is light without insulting my intelligence, and plenty of humour, not least in the form of parody (possibly missed by reviewer Not_Stoppard?). I raced through this book, enjoying it greatly almost to the end (the denouement is weak after the tautness of the plotting in the first three-quarters of the book). I can honestly say that I laughed out loud several times, and my biggest disappointment, apart from the handling of the ending, was that it was all over too soon!
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Greek island farce - more beach than Booker, 4 Aug 2012
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Ripple (uk) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Skios (Hardcover)
Set on a Greek island, a cultural foundation is preparing for the biggest event in its year at which renowned academic Dr Norman Wilfred is due to give the keynote speech. Also heading to the island on the same plane is Oliver Fox, a morally vacant but charming Lothario, who has arranged an assignation with a girl who he has met for only five minutes but has invited to spend a week with him at the villa that he was due spend a week with his ex-girlfriend before she threw him out. But when the girl send to collect Dr Wilfred from the airport, Nikki, turns out to be irresistibly charming Oliver decides to play the role of Dr Wilfred and follow her to the foundation while the real Dr Wilfred, minus luggage is transported to the villa at the other end of the island. Someone still has to give the speech though - will it be the real Dr Wilfred or the fake Dr Wilfred?

As you will have gathered this has all the ingredients for a good, old-fashioned farce. Michael Frayn is as well placed as anyone to explore this now somewhat neglected genre, having written the superb farce play "Noises Off" as well as the screenplay for the John Cleese vehicle "Clockwise". The question remains as to whether the farce genre can work as successfully as a comic novel. Frayn is very far from a one genre practitioner but it's hard to think of any modern writer who is as well versed in the nuances of farce. If anyone can pull it off, it is going to be him.

However, not even a writer of Frayn's undoubted gifts can get quite get this to work successfully. Having said that, it would make a fine holiday read - it's light, easy reading with pleasant doses of humour, although even here, the ending is likely to prove a little disappointing.

There are innumerable challenges a farce writer faces. One of these is that in an age of modern communications, the situations that farce relies upon of misunderstanding are just so unlikely as to seem quaint. Thus, Frayn spends much time explaining why mobile phones aren't working - dead batteries, no charger, thrown in pool etc. Farce also relies on a certain suspension of belief that works fine in a theatre or a cinema where the time period is finite. Although this is a fairly light book, it's not a one-sitting read and this makes it more difficult to sustain this disbelief for the duration.

It's almost wholly lacking in characterisation too and what there is consists of lightly drawn, cliché stereotypes. Again this isn't a problem so much with say a film, but detracts from a book. Much as you might thoroughly enjoy the film "Clockwise", try explaining it to someone who hasn't seen it and conveying the same enjoyment. It's simply impossible without the visual input provided by, in this case Cleese. So too "Skios" seems to need actors to bring these characters to life. Here we have two taxi drivers who are always mistaken for each other - on screen this could be a nice running gag, but here it's just too predictable and obvious.

For all that, Frayn is a master of his art and maintains a pace that is impressive as disaster follows disaster and the plot development is admirably complicated. As you would expect given his experience in screen writing and play writing he has a good ear for dialogue, but the descriptions verge on tired and cliché at several points. To some extent expectations are unfairly raised by the book's inclusion on this year's Booker list. It's not Frayn's fault that he is nominated but it's far from his best literary work. For that, check out "Spies" or "Headlong".

As a holiday read, I'd recommend it with a warning that the ending might disappoint (although with such a build up it's difficult to live up to a satisfying ending). As a Booker nominee though, it's not even Frayn's best work and far from one of the twelve best novels of the year in my view. It would, though, make a pleasingly entertaining movie one feels.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 15 July 2013
This review is from: Skios (Paperback)
The idea that in 2013 an event organiser wouldn't have used 'the interweb' to know the age and appearance of her keynote speaker is just ludicrous, and therefore renders the entire plot line unworkable. Had this been set in the 1960's/early 70's it <might> have worked. Even suspending belief, not worth reading I'm afraid.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars What a load of rubbish, 26 Jun 2013
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This review is from: Skios (Paperback)
Complete drivel. i had the sense that the book was written to make into a film starring Hugh Grant at his silliest. Bought it to take on holiday otherwise wouldn't have bothered to finish it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 9 Jun 2013
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This review is from: Skios (Paperback)
Very disappointed. Used for a local book club review later but did not live up to the credits for me.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not Frayn's best, 5 April 2013
By 
Patrick Hannay (Bangkok) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Skios (Kindle Edition)
Look I will admit some parts are extremely funny especially at the beginning but I know that Michael Frayn has wriiten far better books; "Spies" and "My Father's Fortune" spring to mind. I can't help but feel that "Skios" is more a script for a future play or film.
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33 of 38 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Delicious nonsense!, 29 April 2012
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Self-help junkie (Birmingham, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Skios (Hardcover)
Just the ticket for a rainy afternoon or a long plane journey. Improbability follows improbability but Michael Frayn writes so well youll gladly suspend disbelief! Lots of laugh out loud moments, and it would make a superb film. Great fun, silly nonsense, but somehow classy at the same time.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Below his best, 28 Mar 2013
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MTE Street (Northants UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Skios (Hardcover)
Michael Frayn's a better writer than this indicates! It's a half-baked idea, unconvincingly unravelled and full of ludicrous, incredible scenes.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Gems, 22 Jan 2013
This review is from: Skios (Kindle Edition)
I was very much looking forward to reading this book following a recent holiday in Greece. Sadly I was slightly disappointed. I enjoyed the concept of the book but the characters lacked any depth and I grew rather bored of reading it. Okay book. Nothing amazing.
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Skios
Skios by Michael Frayn (Hardcover - 3 May 2012)
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