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All Quiet on the Orient Express: reissued by [Mills, Magnus]
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All Quiet on the Orient Express: reissued Kindle Edition

3.9 out of 5 stars 43 customer reviews

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Length: 236 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Amazon Review

Magnus Mills may have single-handedly invented a new fictional genre: the Kafkaesque novel of work. First, his Booker-shortlisted The Restraint of Beasts brought to fence building the kind of black humour found in a Coen brothers movie. Now, in All Quiet on the Orient Express, Mills turns his deadpan prose on some very odd jobs indeed. The unnamed narrator is on holiday for a few weeks, camping in the Lake District before beginning an extended journey to India. He sees no reason not to agree when the campground owner--the sinister Tommy Parker, who seems mainly to engage in "buying and selling"--asks him to help out with a simple chore. As this is a Magnus Mills novel, however, no chore can possibly be simple. Through error or bad luck, one task leads to another and the narrator quickly finds himself trapped by his own passivity and a very English reluctance to cause a fuss. Soon he's doing homework for Parker's daughter, being kicked on and off the darts team at the local pub and learning how to perform a series of menial jobs. ("Have you ever operated a circular saw?" "Driven a tractor before?" "What are you like with a hammer and nails?")

There's a lot that's strange about this little town. Where have all the females gone? Why does everyone seem to think he should take over the town milk route? Why won't the shops stock his beloved baked beans? Both the grocer and the pub are oddly eager to let him run up tabs and there's no sign of payment from Tommy Parker. It seems, in fact, that the narrator's early suspicions have been fulfilled: "I'd inadvertently become his servant." Like the Hall brothers from The Restraint of Beasts, Parker is volatile, irrational and all-powerful--a primitive god ruling over his own creation. As the narrator falls further and further under his sway, All Quiet on the Orient Express becomes a striking allegory of labour and capital, purgatory and judgement, and the uncanniness of manual work. --Mary Park

The Independent on Sunday, 19 September 1999

The arrival of Magnus Mills on the British literary scene is extraordinarily refreshing. He represents a genuinely avant garde voice who has breathed new life into the genre (if it can be called a genre) by flouting all expectations of what a novel can be about... Mills is genuinely unique, but if he is to be placed anywhere in the jigsaw of literary history, he will have to slot between Albert Camus and Enid Blyton. [He is] oneof the handful of British writers to work in a unique fictional universe. For this, Mills is to be treasured and revered. You cannot ask more of a book than for it to make the familiar seem fresh, strange and scary. In a modest, sneaky way, Mills pulls this off better than any other writer at work today.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 782 KB
  • Print Length: 236 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing; 1 edition (16 May 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0054NPM1K
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Screen Reader: Supported
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars 43 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #132,354 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I don't know how he does it, but Magnus Mills captures the dull emptiness of the unexamined life without turning the reader off. This book might be hard going for the first few pages but before long you'll be purring with pleasure even if you don't know why. A guy plans to motorcycle to India but ends up playing darts and delivering milk instead. He buys baked beans. He'd like some biscuits but the shop is out of stock. Stuff happens, but not much. But the book grows ever more creepy and weird while never letting on that anything is happening, until you get to the end and realise how utterly strange, compelling and mad it all was. From the grim banality of the dullest lives imaginable he slowly conjures up a dark, feral bad-dream world that seems more real than life no matter what bizarre events happen. The only current writer I can compare him to is George Saunders of "Civilwarland in Bad Decline", but Mills is even more low key and deadpan, creating delicious madness from the most unpromising material imaginable.
It's a rare book that leaves you both very satisfied and thinking "what the ****ing hell was that all about?" And this is it.
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Format: Paperback
It certainly will be all quiet on the Orient Express, because the main character of this book will never get there!

Having been all ready to leave the campsite where he had spent his holiday to embark on a tour of the Far East, the unnamed narrator finds himself sticking around to help out with various tasks around the place. But this soon escalates until he is being roped in to every kind of job by the mysterious Mr. Parker (and his daughter). As more and more time passes, he finds it harder and harder to say 'no' to anything asked of him, and it becomes clear to the reader that he is stuck as the servant of the aforementioned Mr. Parker. The theme of being stuck in an allegory of manual work (which, despite the protestations of a previous reviewer, does make sense) then comes to the fore, and the reader is increasingly unnerved by the narrator's plight, and is curious as to the significance of various symbols, such as the cardboard crown. (I found the answer a bit of a disappointment). As the book draws to a close, it becomes obvious that the narrator now works on a virtually permanent basis for Mr. Parker, who wobbles on the edge of extreme anger at the mistakes of his young 'protege'.

Having praised the novel for its brilliance at conveying such a convincing allegory, however, it falls to me to say that the book does seem to constantly build up the reader's hopes only to eventually offer what I found to be a rather sudden and disappointing conclusion. But then maybe that was the point. He will never escape, so why should we be able to? As to whether you should buy it, I'd say that if you don't understand what an 'allegory of labour and capital' means, then don't! If you think you might, then go for it!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Three and a Half Stars. Quite entertaining.

Ignoring the staggeringly over-zealous hype surrounding Mr Mills' novels, this is a mildly entertaining first-person description of a holiday outing to the Lakes which takes a turn for the odd. Not "insanely, psychedelically weird" but just a little odd. The writing style is casual and laid back-to the point of turning into a blog entry with grammar an optional extra. (I admit that my grammar is not of the highest order, but I am not a professional writer charging for writing this review!) The characters are entertainingly described but are never fleshed out as the narrator drifts from one set-piece "happening" to the next.

I was expecting "Darkly Surreal" and was presented with "faintly unsettling" - consider the slightly odd feeling you get when a dog stares at you in a strange fashion. I would have preferred it had the dog started tap-dancing and singing show-tunes.
Expectations were of Flann O'Brien while the result was more Alan Bennet. Not necessarily a bad thing and, overall, this very slim volume kept me entertained for a couple of hours.

Other reviewers have mentioned a twist at the end. Don't wait with bated breath. The end is telegraphed fairly obviously from the first quarter of the book, trundling on to its inevitable climax. My personal opinion is that this inevitability was, after all, the point of the story. Ah well, each reader sees every novel in a different light.

The critical reviews of a novel would not normally make up any part of a further book review but, in this case, they cannot be ignored as they make up the first six pages (yes, SIX PAGES) of the the rather slim paperback edition which I purchased.
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Format: Paperback
What is amazing about this book is just how little of it there is. Mills doesn't waste words describing every pointless little detail, creating beautifully tight prose. Even the protagonists name is omitted - but so what? What difference does it make whether it is John or Jack or Peter or whatever? Other reviewers claim that this makes the book unevocative, shorn of individuality. Rubbish. Instead the sparse writing leaves your imagination room to create connections, giving the book a wonderfully brooding and almost surreal feel. The protagonist says 'Hi' to his landlord, but because it is so underwritten, you read in sinister undercurrents to the exchange. You are also more aware of themes and motifs, which helps set up a wonderful twist. A fantastic book, well worth buying.
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