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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars May disappoint as much as delight, 3 Dec 2012
MisterHobgoblin (Melbourne) - See all my reviews
Kimberly's Capital Punishment is an eccentric novel. Right from the outset, Kimberly reacts inappropriately to the sudden suicide of her boyfriend Stevie, turning it into a wordgame. There is more than a passing resemblance to Morvern Callar - both as a character and a novel - at this point.

As the novel progresses, there is an ever increasing disconnect between Kimberly's thought processes and her actions. She seems to be super-intelligent with a particular gift for mathematics, yet she lives a life hovering barely above homelessness and using sex to get what she wants. She is obsessed with her haircut (the Guillotine), her evil eyes and her clothes. The disconnect is really very funny and as Kimberly decides to do good deeds to atone for being unkind to Stevie, the distance between her perceptions and reality turns into farce.

Then, half way through the book, what was eccentric starts to become surreal. The reader is brought into the novel and asked to decide on one of six possible endings - perhaps by rolling a dice like in those fantasy gamebooks. It must be said that things get choppy at this point. Despite the instructions, most readers will read each of the six endings in sequence (and references to earlier endings in later ones indicate that this is the intention). But some endings are better than others. In particular, an ending focusing on a court case doesn't work at all.In an attempt at extreme post-modernism, the author appears and the whole feel is of an acid trip. But a courtroom drama might not be the most entertaining pairing for acid. It just feels puerile and dull. And the last ending of all really drags. This is a pity because some of the earlier endings are genuinely beautiful and finish on an emotional climax. Saving the (second) weakest for last is a mistake that makes the whole book finish on a whimper.

It's difficult to say more without giving things away. Kimberly's Capital Punishment is flawed; it is derivative in parts (sometimes to the point of citing the source that is being developed); and it is overly long. But it also has some wonderful ideas and the reader does genuinely feel for Kimberly by the end. Therefore it is worth reading, even if it may disappoint as much as delight.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Starts well but rapidly looses its way, 11 Feb 2014
This review is from: Kimberly's Capital Punishment (Paperback)
The first 100 pages or so of Kimberly's Capital Punishment are funny and engaging. There are some nice stylistic twists and we get to know the story of Kimberly and how her boyfriend Stevie died. After his death Kimberly tries to make amends by 'doing good'. This is where Milward started to loose me. The way that Kimberly does good is by having sex with various undesirable men which leads to her life starting to spiral downhill. Things become a little distasteful at this point but there is at least a narrative.

About halfway through the book Milward makes the decision to turn this into a 'choose your own adventure' style book where you have to turn to page 340 if you want Kimberly to do X or turn to page 249 if you want her to do Y. This is where Milward completely lost me and, despite ploughing through another 50 or so pages, I stopped reading shortly thereafter.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Heaven or Hell?, 21 May 2014
Quicksilver (UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Kimberly's Capital Punishment (Paperback)
Kimberly's Capital Punishment is the strangest novel I have read in some time. It is roughly 5 parts genius, 3 parts peculiar and 2 parts revolting. It's not a book I could possibly recommend because the last chapter is so gross, gratuitous and borderline misogynistic, that it almost renders what came before obsolete. Which is a shame.

Whilst the of the book is not without gut-churning sexual-violence, it did at least seem to be mitigated by the narrative and themes of the novel. The final pages of the book say nothing at all, and add nothing of value to anything anybody might ever say about anything, ever.

In places Milward's turn of phrase and observation take the breath away. He is clearly a man with writing talent to burn. The novel opens when Kimberly Clark finds her boyfriend hanging from the bars of a children's playground. Her role in this tragedy? She wilfully made her beau's life a misery, and now he's killed himself.

Not surprisingly this has a detrimental effect on her well-being. Just as she hits rock bottom she has something of an epiphany, and decides that in recompense for hounding her boyfriend to death, she will start to do only good deeds. A brilliant plan, only it turns out being altruistic can get you into a lot of bother.

Milward's depiction of the grimy streets of North London, is vivid, almost tangible. He captures the voice of young adults trying to make the best of life on limited funds and a surplus of time. It's an accurate snapshot of twenty-first century urban living. (I think; I'm forty and live in Surrey). Kimberly's attempts to make other people's lives brighter, are funny and filled with pathos. If there is a wider point here, it may be something as simple as 'nice girls finish last.' Her attempts to cheer up the lives of seven men by juggling dates with them ends with predictable disaster.

Whilst elements of these dates are entertaining and make valid comments on contemporary society, it was at this point that Milward started to lose me. Some of the events start to turn unsavoury and downright peculiar. I don't consider myself a prude, but perhaps I am; I certainly I found some passages in very bad taste. The rough and not-entirely-consensual sex Kimberly undergoes as she does her penance, began to make the novel tawdry and uninteresting.

Just as the novel begins to lose its way, there isn't so much a change in direction as a leap off a cliff and plummet into a parallel dimension. With this abrupt turn of events, the book becomes something else altogether; a 'choose your own adventure'.

Well it doesn't really. There are multiple endings, which can theoretically be read in any order, but you'll probably still read them straight through. From here the book becomes wildly inventive before crashing down in an unholy mess.

I really enjoyed some of these section. There is a disturbing, entertaining and freakishly plausible rendering of heaven. A wonderful depiction of reincarnation and a mind-bending post-modern court room drama that pulls the reader and writer into the narrative. It had me in thrall until the end of the court scene when then wheels start to come off in a very bad way.

I wish I could have the time back I spent reading the final chapter of the book. Until then, this was a greatly inventive novel. Not all of the ideas worked, but enough of them did, brilliantly, to make this a invigorating if uneven read. I just don't get what the author was trying to show at the end here (well I sort of do, but he fails), and it left me with nothing but the bitter taste of disappointment. There is some excellent writing of great value here but the destination was definitely not worth the journey. Proceed with caution.
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Kimberly's Capital Punishment
Kimberly's Capital Punishment by Richard Milward (Paperback - 1 Aug 2013)
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