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The Coma Hardcover – 1 Jul 2004

3.3 out of 5 stars 43 customer reviews

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Hardcover, 1 Jul 2004
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 168 pages
  • Publisher: Faber and Faber; New edition edition (1 July 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571223087
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571223084
  • Product Dimensions: 14.6 x 1.8 x 22.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,382,613 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"'The Coma is an unpaginated descent into a hall of mirrors, wherein the writer wants to play games with your head... it's a chilly mood piece - its shadowy tone redolent of Poe and Kafka (and its murky imaginative contours heightened by a series of dark woodcut illustrations by Garland's father)... a strange compelling ride into that realm where nothing is what it seems - and where night never really wakes up.' Douglas Kennedy, The Times 'It's a great story to read, but also a lovely visual object to possess.' Design Week 'Compelling and chilling... his father's illustrations heighten the oddness' Observer" --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

Book Description

The Coma by Alex Garland is a gripping mystery and stylistic tour de force from the internationally known author of The Beach. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This short novella opens with the following facts: Carl leaves his office shortly before midnight to catch the last tube home. Inside the carriage, Carl spots a young woman reading a novel when four young men encircle her and try to grab her handbag. When Carl tries to protect her, the four men attack him and kick him into unconsciousness.
The three first pages of the book consist of the account of Carl's accident. The rest of the story is seen from Carl's point of view, suffering from a psychological fall-out and amnesia as he is being treated in the coma ward of a hospital. His view of events is disorientated, his notion of time is blurred and his memory is unreliable.
It is quite an interesting challenge that Alex Garland took to try to portray what happens in the mind of a comatose man. The effect is quite stunning, disturbing and even frightening at times. This edition is highly recommended since it features forty illustrations made from woodcuts created by the political cartoonist Nicholas Garland, the author's father.
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By Cartimand TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 13 Jun. 2007
Format: Paperback
So let's have fun!

Garland's fascinating novella - a prime candidate for a must read in one sitting, captures that delightful feeling when you experience one of those rare lucid dreams. The main protagonist realises he is in a coma and seizes the opportunity to explore childhood memories, feelings, relationships and music. This is heady, trippy stuff accentuated by inventive and sometimes startling use of language and ably illustrated by some very evocative woodcuts. It's all over too soon though. Comfortably read in a couple of hours, the final chapter, although read and re-read several times, still did not give me satisfying closure on what had been a fun ride up until then.

Worth trying out, but annoyingly enigmatic at the close.
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Format: Paperback
I remember reading The Coma when it first came out some 10 years-ish ago, flying through it in a day and dismissing it as “eh, dream story, got it”. I’m glad I came back and re-read it and thought about it more afterwards as there’s a lot more to it than that (and understanding what I read, rather than chalking it up as another book down, is the whole point of why I write reviews anyway).

Carl is in the office making notes on papers late into the night. His secretary calls to remind him that the last train leaves in 25 minutes so he leaves. On the underground he sees a young woman being hassled by some yoofs. He intervenes and they stomp on his head. Carl is rushed to hospital in a coma. The novella begins with Carl trying to figure out what’s happened and then how he can awaken and return to his life.

Alex Garland wonderfully describes the dream state Carl finds himself in, really bringing that aspect alive for the reader. Carl goes from scene to scene without knowing how he got from one place to another, time seems to speed up, time goes backwards as he revisits favourite memories - it’s a great trip and exactly follows dream logic.

The book, though some 200 pages or so in length, is actually much shorter – a mirage in itself. Take all of the text and cut out the white space, the blank pages, the woodcut drawings, and it’s more like a 60ish page short story. But actually the way the book is laid out with everything spaced out like it is, is all part of the story.

The reader realises, at the same time as Carl, that his memories are extremely limited and he’s suffering from amnesia.
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Format: Paperback
I can appreciate a number of people's dissatisfaction with Alex Garland's latest book. Putting aside the story/writing for a moment, the unhappiness people probably feel at paying full price (£6.99) for what is really a novella is understandable. You can argue it should be quality over quantity as much as you like, but a full price tag for this slim effort is quite insulting.

The decision to add illustration by his father doesn't help. Whilst I think they add a brilliant creepy atmosphere to the text and so work rather well, the counter argument that they are merely "padding" seems equally valid.

Still, I've not knocked a star off for this - but I was tempted. It's a shame though as I feel "Coma" is brilliantly written and cleverly delivered. The story is imaginative and Garland caputres the unsettling, quirky dream state that his character inhabits with vivid, unsettling descriptions. The story is a clever and interesting idea and I admire him for creating a story and characters so rounded in such a brief format.

Thankfully, Amazon are offering this book at a more reasonable price - I'd recommend you check it out.
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Format: Paperback
Don't get me wrong, I am a big fan of Alex Garland's work as an author. I thought the Beach was gritty but altogether inspired. The Tesseract was an interesting diversion away from the mainstream and the 28 days later script was both brutal and effective.
Therefore, my anticipation was very high when I heard of the author's new book "The Coma". What did I expect? I'm not really sure. Hopefully more of the same style as the Tesseract perhaps. What did I get? I will try and explain as best as I can.
"The Coma" is about a man, Carl, who, on trying to help a young woman out on the tube one night becomes the victim of a brutal assault by four teenagers. After that, Carl wakes up in a coma ward. Or does he? From here on I don't want to give too much away but basically the book continues to delve into the mind and surroundings of Carl. His thoughts, or real life situations, his trauma of not knowing whether his life is real or imagined and his determination to find out the truth is all explored here with both intelligence and humour.
The book itself is very short with many illustrations created by Nicholas Garland, the father of the author. The illustrations pick up on various places and images that Carl either remembers, is present at or conjures up, so they really do no damage to the flow of the book whatsoever. Although the chapters are short (some of them are less than half a page!) this makes it a comfortable read and even works in favour of the storyline as each chapter provides a glimpse at part of the real life, thoughts or memories of the central character which he himself is having trouble recollecting. This is why the book is so readable.
I would urge any Garland fan that enjoyed the Tesseract to give this book a go.
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