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The Devil's Garden Paperback – 2 Feb 2012

3.6 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Picador (2 Feb. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330463519
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330463515
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.1 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 451,117 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


`Wilbur Smith once told me that adventure novels set
in South America don't really work. Well, it always takes
a young pup to prove an old dog wrong. Here comes
Edward Docx, author of the acclaimed Self Help, to do
just that, and fabulously well. Even readers not in love
with that genre [the thriller] will enjoy the pleasures of
Docx's writing . . . a novel which is as full of intellectual
provocations as it is of suspenseful turns' --Giles Foden, Guardian

`Docx is a master of disquiet, and brilliantly captures
the bewildering effect of the forest. He's produced a
memorable cast . . . all portrayed with great artistry and
imagination. Immensely intelligent' --Spectator

`Docx's real skill lies in the storytelling. There is a
constant sense that more is occurring in this strange
place than Forle is telling us, so that when he finally does
explode, it's shocking and satisfying. It's an unusually
intelligent thriller that refuses to take sides. One suspects
Conrad would have rather enjoyed it' --Metro

`written in punchy action-packed paragraphs' --The Economist

`In twinning a zoologist protagonist with gripping drama,
Docx is in respected company - with William Boyd, for
example, and Jill Dawson . . . Docx dexterously conjures
up the drought-stricken jungle: the suffocating, soupy
atmosphere, fascinating wildlife and startling beauty . . .
The escalating threat and the way in which a history of
exploitation, hypocrisy and corruption breeds further
immorality and violence are reminiscent of novels by
J. M. Coetzee or Damon Galgut. This poisoned Eden
throbs with intensity, and delivers a gut punch that leaves
you reeling.'
--Independent on Sunday

`Set deep in the South American jungle, Edward Docx's
brooding novel, with its Conradian echoes, pits western
"progress" against nature . . . the action sequences are
convincingly adrenaline-soaked . . . while, crucially, the
personality of the narrator protagonist remains opaque
behind his beautifully crafted, vaguely antique prose.
At the end of The Devil's Garden, it is the forest itself,
in all its teeming, ant-infested gloominess, that remains
most memorable.' --Sunday Times Culture

`A confident and compelling novel, which also takes in
intrigue and adventure, terror and torture, drugs and
booze . . . It's a riveting Conradian page-turner' --Dazed and Confused

`A charged, compelling fiction that moves from uncomfortable
stand off to murderous pursuit while tilting at
some of the cherished liberal ideals of Western civil -
isation' --Independent

`The Devil's Garden reads like a thriller but has fascinating
moral and political dimensions. The description
of the jungle is horrific, making this a great contender
as a Heart of Darkness for the twenty-first century' --Bookseller

`Written with the economy of a political thriller, Docx
relates how Forle - a man with a difficult past - is gradually
drawn into a small-scale conflict . . . Reminiscent of
Damon Galgut and Brian Moore, Docx conjures up an
amoral universe inhabited by chancers and damaged
loners . . . the spell of the rainforest is hard to resist: from
the constant insect trill "like some great tinnitus", to skies
that change from "wan and smoky blue" to "peach and
pale vermilion".'

`A tumultuous journey of danger and suspense . . . Docx
allows his writing to feed off of our natural fears and for
much of the novel you get the feeling that the world is
closing in around you. There's plenty here to keep you
on the edge of your seat.'

`Human nature is examined under Edward Docx's
microscope just as carefully as are the ants, and the
tension for this reader felt initially understated and on
a par with the seemingly turn-a-blind-eye approach of
Dr Forle . . . It's an object lesson in how to find yourself
unwittingly pitched into the middle of a war zone
without really trying' --Dovegreyreader

`Starting with the ominous sentence, "There is only one
way out: the river", The Devil's Garden anatomizes a
deadly clash between the ruthless agents of big business
and politics and a hapless group of scientists and native
Indians in a contemporary Amazonian-style setting.
Narrated by Dr Forle, who is researching jungle ants,
the novel makes valuable points about the dark side of
mankind, as well as the desperation needed to stay alive'

About the Author

Edward Docx was born in 1972 and lives in London. His previous novels are The Calligrapher, and Self Help, which was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2007, and won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The premise of 'The Devil's Garden' is promising. Scientist Dr Forle is deep in the South American rainforest to study a strange phenomenon: ants that work collaboratively to destroy all but one species of plant, creating areas known as Devil's Gardens; behaviour that challenges widely accepted evolutionary theory. When a supply boat containing two menacing individuals - who identify themselves as the Judge and the Colonel - arrives at Forle's research station, his life takes a very different direction. Edward Docx lived in the rainforest while researching this book, and it shows in his sumptuous descriptions of the forest's aesthetics, sounds, colours, smells and myriad lifeforms. Docx's powerful descriptive writing sets the scene in impressive detail, but it can't redeem a chaotically flung-together plot, dull dialogue and a main character who is unremarkable and humourless. While the novel is immaculately researched, its unflinchingly formal prose imbues the book with the feel of an old-fashioned tome rather than a modern tale in which references to satellite phones and e-mail are commonplace.

The most interesting parts of the novel are the scientific journal entries detailing Dr Forle's observations of ant behaviour and the epiphanies he has experienced as a result. This screams two things to the reader: the journal entries are beautifully written; the rest of the story is somewhat dull. Imagine watching an episode of 'Star Trek: The Next Generation' in which the 'Captain's Log' excerpt was the most exciting part of the show. 'The Devil's Garden' is the literary equivalent of that experience.

Docx describes the rainforest with precision and lushness, but fails to do the same with his novel's characters.
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By Brett H TOP 50 REVIEWER on 10 Mar. 2011
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The main setting for the Devil's Garden is a scientific station in the Amazonian rain forest where the work is to investigate Devil's Gardens. There is no mystery as to the origin of these as is rather misleadingly suggested in Amazon's description of this book. They are areas inhabited by a particular species of ant and the bushes in which they live. Other vegetation in these areas has disappeared and the natives call them Devil's Gardens. All this is stated in the first few pages.

A colonel and a judge arrive at the station, apparently there to register the local Indians to vote. However, when one of the local Indians is tortured and there are various allusions to ethnic cleansing it appears there may be more to this than meets the eye..........

All this sounds like a promising scenario. However, for the first half of the book the plot progresses at an extremely pedestrian pace and the main interest is in the detailed description of the surroundings. Things pick up a bit in the second half but the story is still not developed significantly. The pace can never be called frenetic except at one stage, when the Chief Scientist, Forle, is kidnapped. For a few short pages the book becomes a page turner. Unhappily this does not last, though it does go to show that Docx can write in an attention grabbing manner if he has a mind to. The climax is rather violent, somewhat unlikely and not particularly satisfactory.

Every so often there is an italicised page or so of scientific notes on a particular aspect of the rain forest. Although a neat idea this does not really add much except that it is often more interesting than the surrounding narrative. I did, however, learn quite a lot about ants!
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Set primarily in the last inhabited river station up a tributary of the mighty Amazon, The Devil's Garden conjures up strong visions and parallels. You immediately think of other `jungle' novels - Heart of Darkness being the obvious one of course, and indeed they do share some heavy themes. This novel is billed as a literary thriller, which I suppose it is, but very much in slow-burn Graham Greene mould - I'm thinking The Quiet American meets A Burnt Out Case here ... but first let me tell you a little about the book.

Dr Forle and his assistant Kim, aided by German guide Lothar, work in the jungle carrying on the work of Forle's partner studying a particular species of ant; ones that create Devil's Gardens - poisoning all the plants around their nest except their favoured home making strange glades in the forest - like man of course! One day, the peaceful existence of the station residents is disturbed by the arrival of the Judge and a Colonel and soon a band of soldiers. Officially there to register the jungle tribes to vote, their presence upsets everything, and after Forle witnesses a boy being tortured one night, it is clear that life can't go on as normal, although Forle tries to assert his authority. You just know that it's going to go wrong ...

For the non-indigenous folk, (except perhaps Lothar who seems to know his way around in the jungle), life revolves around the river. The settlement itself only goes skin deep.
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