Customer Review

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In The Land of The Blind The One Eyed Man is King, 19 May 2006
This review is from: Rage (Hardcover)
`In The Land of The Blind the One Eyed Man is King'

I just read Rage by Simon Conway and loved it. What's more, my 15 year old male babysitter, who is about to go into the army, started reading it one evening after he had managed to heat seek it out of my book case (how does that happen?) and also loved it. In fact, his loving Rage and asking to borrow it has constituted the longest conversation that I have ever had with him. That we should both love it is a bit of a mystery, and has got me thinking about why.

I can't pretend I think of myself as the book's obvious audience. I haven't read another thriller army or otherwise in my life. I bought it on an impulse: I have recently been reading W. G. Seabald but needed to take a break - books on the impermanence of human endeavour were not the best thing to have been reading during this Narnia length winter we've just had: I needed a change. A radical change. I picked it in a punk-on-the-i-pod fuelled moment of ahbollocks, bring on the pain, the khaki coloured stress, the sacrificial male bodies all pummelled and bleeding but still crashing on through the sand and the lies ¬- grrrrr!

I thought it would be an easy read, a bit of bedtime lite: I was instantly hooked. Sucked in to an absurd degree - like, switch off the phone, send the kid out for temporary adoption all I want to do is read this book hooked. Rage is definitely not lite. On one level it's a richly textured thoughtful exploration of the insanities that exist in the Middle East today. Simon Conway is a man who is defiantly as angry and bemused by it all as his hero Johna Said. On another level it's a page turning rampage through madness and situations of extremism: which, contrary to most literature about the middle east these days, manifest themselves due to the character's lack of belief: be it a member of the UN Observers or the odious narcissist Uday Hussain.

Perhaps the reasons that my young male baby sitter and I love it are for different reasons: I loved it because the characters were real, he loves it cause all the army bits are real (endless guns named only by their serial number, that's definitely a guy thing, well not every guy, but those guys who knew before Clint tells us punks what exactly the most powerful hand gun in the world is). But then, if the characters weren't real then the army bits would be dull and if the noodley army bits weren't there then the character's verisimilitude wouldn't work.

I have always thought that characters in thrillers would be the hardest to create. There has to be something about them that makes you believe that they are going to be able to do all the things they in, usually, 24 hours with no food and no sleep and still find the energy for rhomahncing bebe.

I liked Johna cause he is so flawed. He is such a crap spy, something he admits to himself at the end. But he is endearing because despite all his protestations to the contrary you know that he really wants to be an invincible tough guy, who is doing all this cause this is what he does rather than because he can't think of anything else to do. And you got to love a guy who has at his core such monumental self belief that he gets the beautiful woman - despite his ugly appearance - cause he is, in his battles scared magnificence, an alpha male. The Iraq Kuwait border is the land of the blind and it is only here that the one-eyed reprobate Johna can be king.

It is very rare that we ask ourselves what we want out of literature. I mean, have you ever consciously asked yourself, what it is you want from a book? I'd warrant that, like myself, it doesn't happen often. Most of us are content with muttering, `I don't know much about literature, but I know what I like.' and then wondering why, when we steam into a book shop all full of excited book buying jizz and zoom, it quickly descends into a moment of high stress mental paralysis:

`Do I go for the 3 for 2 Offer or do I actually go choose one book that I actually want off the shelves?'

Well after reading Rage I am going to have to do a bit of a rethink about what it is that I want out of literature. Cause clearly intelligent politically sensitive thrillers set in the Middle East are the new chick lit.

You read it here first.
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