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4.6 out of 5 stars
The Universe versus Alex Woods
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 2 December 2013
This was a Book-club choice and not a title I would have picked up otherwise. It was an interesting read but I cannot really say it was enjoyable, but only because I was unable to build a rapport with the protagonist Alex Woods a teenage science nerd . However this is a very well written début novel from a young author that I suspect we will hear a lot more from in the years to come. He has tackled the ethical issue which is a major theme of the novel in an extremely sensitive way. Although the story line was not to my taste it was still an emotional and thought provoking read.

Alex Woods is a strong willed teenager with a fascination for science and particularly astronomy, after being hit by a falling meteorite. The accident puts him in a coma from which he does recover but leaves him isolated from his own age group by his strange background. When he meets Mr Peterson a pot smoking Vietnam veteran, the unlikely pair become friends. Alex learns via Mr Peterson's obsession with the author Kurt Vonnegut that we only get one shot at life so have to make the best choices along the way that we can.

I am not sure to whom one would particularly recommend this novel, but if you have read ' The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night' it may well appeal.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Who knew that sincere, ironic and earnest deadpan naivete would be Kurt Vonnegut's lasting contribution to the world of letters? Well, I guess anyone who read him at an impressionable age knows that. This book is a wonderful, touching and calmly reassuring reminder that the spirit of Vonnegut lives on in the world of letters.

As is the case with all of Vonnegut's work, (and Vonnegut was a very canny character), where you stand on this book depends on where you sit. Tween, teen, YA, millennial, GenX, new adult, all the way up to old-timers who think they might have been at Woodstock, where you are determines in large measure how you feel about this book. For me, it lacks the antic absurdity of prime Vonnegut but as homages go it strikes many of the right notes. I didn't find it very profound, but that's me. Given the task at hand, I'm also not inclined to be overly critical.

So, if you'd like to absorb and mull over a calm, reflective and generously good-hearted, quiet book, this might be a very nice choice.

Please note that I received a free advance ecopy of this book in exchange for a candid review. Apart from that I have no connection at all to either the author or the publisher of this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 5 August 2013
This is the second novel I have read which tackles the sensitive subject of euthanasia. I have not chosen either book for the subject matter, but have ended up enjoying both of them tremendously. The Universe versus Alex Woods begins at the end of the story, but it does not take away any of the enjoyment, as you are quickly taken back to the (unusual) beginning of the story. As soon as Alexs' narrative begins you know you have discovered a unique character who you come to like and respect more and more as his story unfolds. There are 4 main characters, each very different and well drawn by the author. But it is the growing friendship between Alex and Mr. Peterson that is at the heart of the book and some of the dialogue between the two of them is very funny with short, sharp sentences exchanged between the two of them. The inevitable ending is well written, sympathetic without becoming overly sentimental or maudlin. You will want to raise a toast to Alex and Mr. Peterson by the end.

By the way, the other book I read tackling euthanasia is 'You Before Me' by Jojo Moyes - completely different to The Universe versus Alex Woods, but highly recommended. Be warned though, the ending will have you reaching for the tissues.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
TOP 100 REVIEWERon 15 August 2013
I fell heavily for this book. In turn funny, heartwarming, clever and tearjerking, it's an absolute delight from its immediately engaging start through to its finish. It's about (and narrated by) Alex Woods, a quirky, bookish, misfit teen who has suffered from epilepsy since he was hit by a meteor at the age of 10. He befriends an older man, Mr Peterson, and among other things, they bond over a love of Kurt Vonnegut novels. We know from the opening paragraph that Mr Peterson will die, but the book takes a long time to work its way back to the story behind how that happens - and why Alex becomes the subject of a police hunt.

Why this book works so well is not in what happens (which is only borderline believable), but the delightful way that Alex tells us his story and gets us to care so much about his fate. The book succeeds in tackling some heavy subjects but in a way that isn't remotely hard going. Alex's deadpan humour and unusual take on events is simply delightful to read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 26 May 2013
Unfortunately this novel was the subject of a bidding war which means that Hodder and Stoughton have had their publicity machine playing at full blast. On this occasion though the hype is not far from the truth because this is a very good novel and extraordinary as a first effort. I did find it heavily derivative, you can clearly hear not just Mark Haddon but also David Mitchell and Sue Townsend. Still, Extence has his own voice and he writes beautifully. I thought it odd that he gave away the ending at the very start and wonder why he made that decision, because the book was clearly very carefully structured. I am sure he will be explaining it at the numerous book signings that Hodder are making him take on. The result was that I found the last third wearisome, though most other readers didn't, given the rave reviews. Extence is certainly one to watch, a big talent.
Your enjoyment of this book will be enhanced if you're into Vonnegut, which I'm not.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 25 January 2014
For some reason, perhaps the irreverent title, I didn't expect all that much from this book - just a bit of light entertainment. In fact, it is a brilliant novel.

If I'd told someone about the book when I was half-way through, I'd have said that, although there were lots of good things about it, its biggest strength is how funny it is - laugh out loud even when you're in public funny. However, by the end you realize that there's an awful lot more to it than that. It's got everything you want from a good book - characters you believe in and care about, a good story, and excellent writing, as well as the humour I've already mentioned. It's also about a very serious subject, makes you think about life and death, and is at times very profound without ever being preachy or slipping into the kind of faux-philosophical nonsense you often end up with when an author tries to be deep and meaningful. I couldn't recommend it more highly.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 5 January 2014
The Universe versus Alex Woods
Thank you Kindle Sale! Not the type of book I would usually select, I am a blurb-skimmer and if something puts me off in that, then I rarely give it a chance. The word 'meteorite' in itself would usually have been enough to make me pass it over. However, some unknown force made me at least have a glance at the Goodreads reviews for it. Not surprisingly it received some high praise there and I thought, oh for 99p I'll give it a shot!

I'm so very pleased I did because I enjoyed every bit of it.

It's brilliantly written, the main character endears himself to you from the get-go and the way in which the story unfolds is pacy and gripping. It's funny, sad and thought provoking, what else can you ask of a book?
Give it a go, it's worth the full cover price and more.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 25 February 2013
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This novel gave me that wonderful feeling when everything being said connects deeply to how I feel about life, the universe, and everything.
It's an extraordinary tale of meteorites, an offbeat upbringing, profound friendship and doing and being what you feel is right (even if it does break the rules). Alex Woods, the narrator, has a most delightful and frank outlook on life and isn't afraid to ask the 'big' questions. His views are delivered with artless grace and humour and had me weeping both tears of laughter and sorrow.
It reminded me greatly of the superb A Fraction Of The Whole, both books with stupendous plots, flawed but wonderful characters and writing that just carries you forward (I took this book everywhere, I was so enraptured I finished it in a couple of days). Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
It starts at the end, with 17 year old Alex being stopped by the police. Then he rewinds the narrative to explain his life up to this point.
I got totally sucked into Alex's story. His life as a series of chance events (being only the second person ever to be hit by a meteor, developing epilepsy), all leading him towards the friendship of Mr Peterson and to his maturation into a young man with incredibly adult and difficult choices to make.

The book is all about chance and choice - what happens to us affects who we are. Our choices stay with us forever and have to be thought through.

By the end I had a deep respect for Alex and the adult he had made himself become.

A touching story, one I couldn't put down.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 1 October 2014
This is a story that stayed with me long after I had finished it. The author effortlessly spins this tale about a schoolboy (Alex) and the friendship he develops with a reclusive middle-aged American widower. The story is actually narrated by the teenager Alex himself who is intelligent and knowledgable on one hand but is also very naive when it comes to interacting with people. I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent with Alex and couldn't help but get emotionally affected by his experiences - be they good or bad.
If you are someone who hasn't read a book in ages but wishes to get back in "the zone" then you couldn't go far wrong by picking up a copy of this quirky, amusing, touching and sometimes dark debut novel by Gavin Extence.
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