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4.0 out of 5 stars Digestible Yann
Of the 4 fictional works the Mr Martel has released, my personal favourite is this.
On offer here are 4 short stories from the authors earlier work (before life of pi). Stories here range from a story about the authors relationship with a friend suffering from AIDS and a story shared between them; a story about a war veteran composing music; a series of letters from...
Published 14 months ago by DPVC

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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Early works that shows sparks of what Martel can achieve
I have not read "Life of Pi" yet, but I have heard so many good things about that novel that when I saw this collection of short stories in the bookstore I was intrigued. I started browsing through the foreword, and immediately came to the conclusion that Martel has an innate ability for writing that places him in a select group of authors. That is why I decided to read...
Published on 6 Jun. 2005 by Sebastian Fernandez


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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Early works that shows sparks of what Martel can achieve, 6 Jun. 2005
By 
Sebastian Fernandez (Tampa, Florida United States) - See all my reviews
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I have not read "Life of Pi" yet, but I have heard so many good things about that novel that when I saw this collection of short stories in the bookstore I was intrigued. I started browsing through the foreword, and immediately came to the conclusion that Martel has an innate ability for writing that places him in a select group of authors. That is why I decided to read this book, which contains four stories from the early stages of his career. When I compare the writing used in these stories with the one in the foreword, I cannot help feeling that the author has evolved considerably, but the stories still show early signs of a great writer.
The topics of these short works are highly unusual, which I believe makes them interesting overall, but at some points I found myself feeling that the author was trying to be unique to the extreme, and therefore, going overboard. The first story is the one that gives name to the collection, and the one I found to be the most touching. In this narration, the author presents the account of his relationship with a friend from college and the events that unfolded after this friend was diagnosed with AIDS. Martel shows a natural ability for reaching the heart of the reader with its vibrant descriptions of the emotions the characters experience when faced with such an enormous tragedy. Maybe the fact that the story is based on a real life event, that the author had to face, helped him with making it so vivid.
The other three stories use as topics a peculiar concert in Washington DC with references to how the Vietnam war affected the life of many, a collection of letters with different outcomes regarding the termination of a prisoner waiting for his death sentence, and a machine that makes mirrors by feeding on stories. As you can quickly realize, none of these have as a topic one that you are likely to find in works by other authors, and that makes them unique and valuable based on the author's imagination. The fact that the writing is not as polished as one would like is just evidence that the author was in the process of discovering himself and searching for the style that suited him best. It is extremely interesting to see how Martel wrote before becoming famous, and this is enough reason to make the book worth reading. - 3.5 stars.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Digestible Yann, 25 Mar. 2014
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This review is from: The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios (Paperback)
Of the 4 fictional works the Mr Martel has released, my personal favourite is this.
On offer here are 4 short stories from the authors earlier work (before life of pi). Stories here range from a story about the authors relationship with a friend suffering from AIDS and a story shared between them; a story about a war veteran composing music; a series of letters from a prison warden sent to the mother of an inmate; and the last being a story about the authors relationship with his grandmother and discovering a rare antique in her many possessions.
The stories themselves don't sound so interesting, until that is, you read them. Martel is an inventive wordsmith and and a lot of these stories (particularly the first and last stories) left me with a lot of food for thought. His blurring of fiction and autobiography is mesmeric, quite simply, and there is a lot of content to these simple stories for you to ponder.
Who would I say this is for? Newbies to Martel, his work is in a more digestible form here and is easier to take on board than his occasionally ponderous later work (yes, life of pi is ponderous, fantastic as it is).
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2.0 out of 5 stars Uneven Four, 26 Mar. 2009
This review is from: The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios (Paperback)
This is a collection of four short stories (in large font, double-spaced, to make the book appear longer than it is) written by Martel before he became famous for his Booker-prize winning novel The Life of Pi. Four short stories that he got published and praised for when he was just starting out as a fiction writer - the kind of collection that fans of the writer might want to check out, but which isn't really an essential read for anyone else.

The first story, which takes the name of the collection, is the best one. It's about two friends who decide to deal with a virus (AIDS) that is killing one of them by playing a storytelling game. The last story, of a grandmother who knows how to build magical mirrors, is also quite good - I read it out loud to my boyfriend and had him in stitches. The other two were alright, but forgettable - one of them was a long structure gimmick that had no meaning; and the other floundered around in the telling of a musician's tale of anonimity and undiscovered genius (maybe how Martel felt about himself before he hit the big time.)
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well worth the read, 26 July 2005
By 
Chris Chalk "Chris" (Croydon, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios (Paperback)
This is one of the hardest books to review that I have read. For starters, it's not a collection of short stories in the "normal" sense. The aren't scaled down works of fiction that one can read quickly and quietly in an afternoon and then feel that you have ticked the box on that author, so to speak. It isn't brilliantly well written or particularly clever. What it is though is honest and in doing that you can begin to see how an author learns his craft. In these short stories Yann Martell achieves something quite stupendous in that he really, truly opens himself up for us to see.
And when dealing with an art form, isn't that truly all we as readers can ask for?
The book is broken up into 4 stories and each is as different as they are off the wall. The first one, and the name sake of the title of the book describes a time when the author was in the tragic position of watching a good friend die from aids. He refrains from giving away too much of the interactions of the dying friend and for this I applaud him. It is up to him if he wants to bear his soul, but not fair to bear someone else's. This story is truly tragic and although not written as a tear jerker, or to particularly shock it manages both through the clever writing which really helps you to understand what it must have been like. This story to me is the most obviously powerful and well worth opening the book to.
The second short story concerns a piece of music that the author hears whilst visiting what appears to be quite an obnoxious friend (not relevant to the book though). This is a peculiar and somewhat less poignant story but powerful in it's own right. You can see how this could be turned into far more detailed story through either the musical genius of the guy playing or of his experience at war but because of the length and comparative ability of the writer at the time it becomes more of an observation piece. Impressive stuff though.
The penultimate story concerns a number of letters from the same person (a warden of a prison) regarding the same event (the execution of a man) to the same person (the man's mother). This is the weak link for me and is one of the stories that straddles brilliance and mediocrity without ever really justifying it's place in the later section. If written now this may have been far more impressive.
The last story concerns the authors grandmother during a period of reminiscence regarding an old machine that he finds. It is touching in places to see the relationship between them, swinging from love and respect to a feeling that he isn't quite good enough and doesn't measure up to his long dead grandfather. This has touches of the ability to come but as with the earlier stories is very rough round the edges.
Read this book not only to see how Yann Martell has grown as an author but also to appreciate a man bearing his soul for the world to see.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Making mirrors from memories, 18 Sept. 2009
By 
Eileen Shaw "Kokoschka's_cat" (Leeds, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios (Paperback)
Yann Martel's collection of four short stories has the easy, pleasing prose of his Booker winner (Life Of Pi) translating well to the shorter form. The title story is especially inventive as two university friends devise a story-telling game when one is dying of Aids in hospital. The other stories are not as strong, based as they are on a single idea rather than idea plus condition-of-life. I do enjoy the play of ideas that Martel accomplishes however - the Vietnam Vets classical music orchestra; or the machine for making mirrors from memories. This is a good if very short collection but nothing in it has the extraordinary tension and vitality of Life Of Pi.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Buy this book just for the first story, 3 Feb. 2010
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A. Niven - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios (Paperback)
The first story, 'The Facts behind the Helsinki Roccamatios', was one of the most touching and emotive stories I have ever read. This collection is worth buying just for that. The Orchestra story was good, but not of the same calibre, the Letters story was just odd and, from my view pointless, and the Mirrors one I actually have no memory of. You can read them if you want, and if you are a fan of Yann Martel you'll probably enjoy them, but the Roccamatios is the shining beacon of this book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Moving, 18 Aug. 2008
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This review is from: The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios (Paperback)
I bought this having read and loved the Life of Pi and was extremely moved by the stories in this book, particularly by the first story.

If you buy it expecting another Pi / Richard Clarke type yarn, you'll be disappointed, but if you are interested in seeing how Martel's writing has been shaped and formed and finally produced LoP I think you'll enjoy these short stories.

overall recommendation: buy if you would like to compare and contrast this with LoP.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Hmmmmm, 1 April 2014
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When I first read this book I was disappointed that it was nothing like Life of Pi. In fact I thought it was boring, a dreary static affair. A second reading has made me shift my opinion a bit. It has a sensitivity that escaped me first time round. However, much of it still fails to ignite my enthusiasm. It's just so mundane, so plodding, so uninteresting. A million miles from his best seller.
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5.0 out of 5 stars no problem, 28 Dec. 2011
i love this book; the title did not put me off - it is the trademark of this author. The book arrived on time in good condition
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13 of 19 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Awful. Just awful, 19 Mar. 2007
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This review is from: The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios (Paperback)
I bought this book having read, and loved, The Life Of Pi. What a spectacular waste of money and time.

This 'collection' is pretentious, abstract nonsense. None of the four short 'stories' is worthy of the name story. They smack of a struggling writer, desperately scratching through a back catalogue of dreadful work, and cobbling together the best bits. All I can say is, I'd hate to have read his worst efforts.

I doubt many people will find this review helpful but I've already wasted enough time on this book, and can't bring myself to detail its shortcomings any further. If I succeed in persuading one person not to make the same mistake, I'll consider the review a success.
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The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios
The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios by Yann Martel (Paperback - 30 Jun. 2005)
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