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4.0 out of 5 stars
Fat (GOLLANCZ S.F.)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 6 April 2007
Being one half of the team that wrote Red Dwarf, you'd expect nothing less than to be chortling right to the end of this book. Didn't really quite turn out that way. True, Grant's book is probably the 'lightest' read of all the books coming out lately which seem to dwell on characters who are physically larger than life. But... To be honest, the only bit that made me laugh was the caption giving his bio under his image on the back cover...

"Fat" follows 3 people all waging some war with weight. I will admit this book (unintentionally?) gave a very interesting and thought provoking insight into the morbidly obese. I also learnt some very interesting facts about boiling an egg... But the two 'extreme' characters were so extreme it got, well, tedious reading them as they went through this 'moment' in their lives as Grant went into painfully nitty gritty detail. For a funny book, it was to nitty gritty. Interesting, but ultimately, not very funny.

As to the 3rd character, well this character was clearly a vehicle for 'setting the record straight.' And I would have been fine with that as well (having read it all before), if it hasn't been written so, well, chest-thumping and pulpit pounding. It does strike me that a lot of western governments are focusing on using things which ultimately aren't the doom and end of the planet as a way to provoke fear in us. And weight is one of those issues... I mean, when it comes to weight, what I don't understand is why no one is questioning all the chemicals and hormones the big companies are putting into our food as a source of why we can't shift weight like we used to a generation ago??? Is there a bigger cover up - by trying to shift the blame onto us not 'exercising enough' and not'eating healthy' - are the big companies trying to dodge that bullet of 'gosh guys, maybe if you (big company) didn't put growth hormone in all cows and chickens, we might not be porking out so much?? Well, that question wasn't addressed at all!

But I digress, that isn't what Rob Grant was trying to display in this book. In the end, all he seems to have produced a quite readable, admitedly unputdownable book - but I would attribute that more to the old "end the chapter in a cliffhanger' technique than any true desire to keep turning pages. I guess its tough in a way - if you don't have a serious weight issue, in a way you can't really relate to the characters - largely because you get every thought spelt out in painful detail - and so even if there is humour in what Grant is writing about, you don't really care to much about the characters. I might have cared more if Grant had created more outrageous circumstances surrounding the characters - and not dwelled so much on the inner agonising of the characters.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 3 July 2007
Although there weren't as many laughs as i expected i still liked the book. This book highlights how much pressure society is under to be slim and gives you a more lighthearted perspective.
There are three main characters in the book. One is overwieght, one has an eating disorder and another is involved in the media and selling ideas for wieght loss. The book is well constructed and thought prevoking, although with the humour being in shorter supply than expected i can understand why this book has several negative reviews.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 7 February 2009
'Fat' by Rob Grant is an intelligent, funny, satirical take on modern society's desire for quick facts and instant results. The book can loosely be termed as science-fiction, not a genre I usually read, however I love a good 'what would happen if the individual had less control' premise. If you enjoy books such as Margaret Atwood's 'Oryx and Crake' or 'The Handmaid's Tale', this is one for you. The book could easily be set a few years in the future within Britain, when the government has decided to tackle the obesity problem.

'Fat' comes from the perspective of three characters, Grenville, Jeremy and Hayleigh. The chapters rotate between these characters, whose lives all loosely interrelate. Each of the characters has some interest or involvement with food and diet, and the book very much focuses on the relationships people form with food.

Grenville is the first character we are introduced to. Grenville is a TV chef, who is hugely overweight. I found him to be he strongest character, although not entirely likeable. Grenville is extremely funny, with sharp one liners and dry observations. Grenville's life is thrown into disarray through his own temper, which he refuses to acknowledge. Grenville is an interesting and humorous character, and is well structured. Grenville's love of food is clear and well described, and the depth with which his chapters go into the sensation of taste, as well as how he lives with the consequences are brilliantly structured. The sole focus of Grenville's personal and professional life is food, however he is an intelligent character, and challenges the stereotype of an ignorant tubby man who doesn't understand what he should be eating.

Jeremy is a successful businessman, who works in advertising. His story begins with a meeting with the Prime Minister. Jeremy is hired to turn around public conceptions relating to the launch of the Government's Well Farms. These Well Farms are essentially fat camps, where adults can go for an extremely rigorous diet and fitness regime. The level of detail that goes into describing these camps in Jeremy's chapters is astonishing. These are also the chapters that address how statistics can be manipulated to suit the whim, and scientific 'myths' which are exaggerated to suit government purposes such as salt and cholesterol. Towards the end of the book Jeremy's story starts to adapt a little and introduces a small element of romance, which seems at odds with his characterisation, and is clearly intended to make the book seem more rounded. I felt this did the opposite, and the author's strength's clearly lay in the scientific and humorous aspects of the book, rather than emotional.

All the characters came across as quite cold and detached from those around them. The book was one sided, in that it had an extremely strong premise and unusual concept, but presented the characters in quite a disconnected light. The emotional development of all three central characters was sparse, none appeared to be changed by the events of the story, and I would have liked to see at least one of the characters evolve during the book.

The final character is Hayleigh. Hayleigh is a teenage girl clearly in the throws of anorexia, although she can not see this herself. I found the views portrayed of anorexia quite typical and unexciting, and could have been presented in a more interesting way. Hayleigh herself seems very childlike in places, while being intelligent and methodical in others, I think this should have led to a natural characterisation of a girl who has developed anorexia as a result of underlying issues about growing up and her body developing, which is not an uncommon diagnosis, but would have added a more unique aspect to her story.

Overall I thought that this was an unusual and well structured novel. It is a fairly quick read despite some of the ideas introduced, and has certainly made me think long after finishing the book. The structure of the novel is laid out in the introduction, however there are some very nice plot twists, especially concerning the linkages between Hailey and Jeremy. I would improve this book by adding on an extra section at the end of the book, after the Well Farms become compulsory, as I felt this was the most important concept in the book, and yet was left not fully explored.

I would recommend this book thoroughly, the ideas are fresh and exciting, and the book is an intelligent, well structured novel, and I will be looking for more from this author.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 19 December 2007
First things first. Yes Rob Grant is known for writing Sci-Fi books but this isnt one of them and never claims to be. It isnt set in a parrallel world or on a space station. It is set in the modern world, though maybe a year or two ahead where concerns on obesety have grown even greater.

This is a very well written and addictive book. I found myself trying to find even short moments to read a chapter or two.

The book tells the stories of three individuals, A morbidly obese chef, an anorexic young teen and a slick yuppie PR man (sorry conceptoligist).

The chapters about the chef were the ones that got me laughing the most, they seem to build to an inevitable climax and are so well written you cant help but laugh out loud(my wife actually sent me from the room as I was laughing too much while she was trying to watch something on the telly).

The chapters about the PR man tend to be used to carry Grants underlying message about how the science of dieting is flawed and in some cases dangerous. I am not very knowledgeable in this field so dont know how accurate the science is. There is still some humour in the PR man chapters but it is more subtle and not as prevelant.

The chapters about the teen girl are in places nothing short of heartbreaking and very nearly brought a tear to my eyes in some places.these chapters dealing with the difficult subject of a girl who has an eating disorder and idolises celebrities like courtney cox who she refers to as the dieting queen manage to contain some elements of black humour that lighten the tone slightly and also have a not very subtle sideswipe at the current culture of celebrity magazines using photoshoped pictures of super slim celebs.

The book could have gone on longer and the ending did seem slightly rushed compared to the time taken developing the rest of the story (hence 4 stars instead of 5), as I got to the end of the book I was worried about this but Grant manages to tie up the loose ends well and doesnt leave you feeling that he has missed anything out.

The three stories overlap each other to some extent (rather the PR man appears in the chef and teen stories) which serves to tie the three together in the book so you dont feel it is a random colection of three individual short stories lumped into one to make a book.

The character development of the PR man is exceptional and all the other characters are well fleshed out and complete.

buy it or borrow it this book is something everyone should read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 27 February 2007
I have never read any of Grants work before, and only picked this up whilst ambling around a bookshop looking for nothing in particular. I read the blurb and a couple of lines from a random page, and was hooked. It wasn't until I got it home did I realise who the author was!

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. A fantastic read. The book does not flow, as you would expect a typical novel. It has 3 separate story lines with 3 separate characters, each being focused on in a different chapter. Usually I don't like reading books, which are laid out in this way, as I find them confusing. This book did sometimes take me about half the page of a new chapter to remember what had happened to that character last time we saw them, 3 chapters ago. There were the odd parts that were slightly tedious to get through, although overall the individual stories were funny.

Each of the 3 characters are extremely different, one being a successful and good looking businessman, who finds the sight and thought of a fat person utterly repulsive. Another character focuses on the life and thoughts of an anorexic teenager. Here Grant successfully broaches the very serious and often delicate subject with humour, yet allowing the reader to see into the thoughts of a sufferer in a serious and genuine way. Not an easy feat, but done very well.

The last character is an overweight chef, (with serious anger management problems...!) who quite frankly supplies the vast majority of the humour in the book. Once again raising issues which the obese face daily, which unless you have experienced, you would never have thought of. Yet doing so in an extremely funny way.

Overall an excellent read, one I would recommend.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A bit of an odd book here, pulled out from my pile of books that have been waiting to be read for more than a couple of years.

You expect "Fat" to be humorous given the pedigree of the author and the style of the cover, but it approaches the subject of weight on a number of levels,

Firstly we have TV Chef Grenville, obese and angry. The humour sits in this plot line and is of the Tom Sharpe style as Grenville's frustrations get him in all sort of trouble.

Then we have Hayleigh, a schoolgirl with an eating disorder and we are put in her position and see the world through her (far too fat) eyes. Grant does well to capture both the `voice' of Hayleigh' and the way she sees the world, an interesting and moving plotline this one.

Finally we have Jeremy, a PR sleaze given the job of promoting the Government's "fat camps" and while Jeremy is a character that redeems himself there is also an element here that debunks much thinking on obesity, cholesterol and weight loss (much like the climate change debate).

The plot lines do kind of come together and it feels slightly quickly wrapped up at the end, but while not overly humorous, this is easy reading and quite thought provoking.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 11 February 2007
I was a bit disappointed with 'Incompetence', Rob Grant's previous outing. I felt it was a bit of a one-line joke extended to nearly 300 pages.

So, it was with some trepidation that I approached 'Fat' - would this again be a thin (sic) joke stretched to the limit? I needn't have worried. Somehow, Rob has got himself back in the groove once again and this is simply hilarious.

Of course, as a novel, it doesn't really work because the plotlines don't really come together terribly well and the science is decidedly dodgy - little more than a polemic from a desperate man. But you know what, it doesn't really matter. There's basically a side-splitting joke on every line and the situational comedy just spirals out of control like the best of Laurel & Hardy shorts.

Like all truly great humour - 'The Office' for example - this really works because of the dark side. The obsessional preparations of the anorexic are exactly spot on, as I know from my job - and the desperate clutching at evaporating dignity of the fat man are an absolute gem.

Give yourself a calorie-free treat and buy this book
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 26 February 2007
Unlike the previous reviewer, 'Incompetence' had me in stitches, and after such a long wait I was full of anticipation for his next work. However this one just didn't hit me the same way.

It's a good subject, society's view of size, but although the characters have been well thought out and developed; the subject area has not. The introduction talks about society's gradual marginalising of overweight people but this context is never really referred to in the book. The story doesn't seem to progress anywhere, the whole thing feels like a drawn-out introduction to a longer book, which is a shame as the character build-up gives you a real longing to know how their lives carry on.

The main flaw is that it's just not that funny -- it has its moments and maybe my expectations were too high but much of the book seems to want to debunk a lot of the myths about modern diet theory rather than entertain, and having read 'Death by Chocolate' by Toby Moore, a novel set in a similar society (albeit with a crime flavour), I feel a lot more humour could have been wrung out of the subject material.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 6 February 2007
I was both pleased and disappointed by this book. Pleased because it has been a while since I have read any Rob Grant and find his zany style of humour invigorating and amusing. I wasn't disappointed by the writing style in this book, he captures the flavour of the three main characters almost immediately and you begin to see the events of the book from their distinctive point of view. The book is amusing, touching and thought provoking but sadly this is just not enough.

Rather than saying what this book is, I shall say what it isn't...It isn't a complete story, the book can be considered almost three character studies with no real discernible plot line. All through the book I was waiting for something clever to happen, for the plots to entwine and as I got to the last chapter I realised that it simply wasn't going to happen. I was left feeling that Grant had missed a perfect opportunity to write a superb book. If you like Grant's humour then you'll like this book but for me it was several chapters and a carefully constructed plot line short of being excellent.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 21 October 2007
This is a story of three unrelated characters - a teenage girl, a "celebrity" chef with temper management issues, and a PR guy. Each subsequent chapter puts a different character under the spotlight. Two of the characters have problems with food and the PR guy ends up visiting a camp for "fatties", which are collectively dubbed "Well Farms".

Initially I found the story of the teenage girl boring in comparison to the other two, but it became more interesting through the book. Eventally circumstances arise when the PR guy meets the other two characters, so they are not totally unrelated characters.

There are some funny set pieces in the book, such as a section from a book on anger management that the chef is given, and an excerpt from the chef's own book concerning the boiling of eggs! But "Incompetence" by the same author has much more "laugh out loud" moments.

It's still well worth reading though, as a distraction from other, more "serious" books....
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