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The Flame Alphabet Hardcover – 7 Jun 2012

2.9 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Granta Publications Ltd; First Edition edition (7 Jun. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847086225
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847086228
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 2.6 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 658,713 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

A measure of the book's success is that it enforces not just a suspension of disbelief, but for a while total surrender of the faculty of reason ... The drama of parental obsolescence is sharply articulated, as is the condition of terrorised parental love --Guardian

An unforgettable experience. This is, quite simply, one of the most powerful works of fiction it has ever been my privilege to read ...
As I approached the final pages I felt tearful, nauseous, shivery, exhausted, terrified and short of breath ... It is a novel which has profound things to say about matters metaphysical but does so in a way that creates a physiological response ... The Flame Alphabet is a revelation and a castigation ... literature that makes sense of our age and will be read in ages to come --Scotsman

Ben Marcus s new novel is an eye-burning high-literary encounter with science fiction ... The Flame Alphabet is abuzz throughout with the kind of scorching prose that we d expect from such bona fide American literature hot stuff --Dazed & Confused

About the Author

Ben Marcus is the author of three previous books; Notable American Women, The Father Costume, and The Age of Wire and String. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, The Believer, The New York Times, and McSweeney's. He has received a Whiting Writers Award, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in fiction, a grant for Innovative Literature from the Creative Capital Foundation and three Pushcart Prizes. He is an associate professor at Columbia University.


Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Well it wasn't what I was expecting.
I thought it was going to be an easy, pulpy sci-fi, dystopian, post apocalyptic novel. Perhaps with a peppering of philosophy about the use of language.
Oh, boy. This is not that.
I was constantly amazed by Marcus's inventive cleverness. I have never read anything like this, and I'm not sure if I've ever been quite as affected by a book as much as this.
Normally, if a book gets its hooks into me, I end up constantly thinking about the characters. Or, to a lesser extent, the world or the central theme. This was like plugging a raw emotion into my mind. Unfortunately, the emotion was akin to disgust or perhaps despair, so this will never be my favourite book.
But as a work of fiction, it is incredible.
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Format: Hardcover
I like this writer, I like him a lot - so if you are also a fan you will find something in this - but if you are coming to Ben for the first time I recommend you to read his Notable American Women: A Novel (Vintage Contemporaries Original) first - which offers far more and which sets out this guys stall in a way that will allow you to go with Flame here without giving up on him. This novel does however contain something of this guy's colossal literary talent and intelligence, and even something of his wit - and the premise of the first half sucks you in so hard and is so finely crafted it exaggerates the silent hiss of the somewhat disappointing second half. What to do? Give it a read, certainly worth it for the ideas alone - but I would check out his earlier work.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Yes they will! In this dystopic future words spoken by children (and later, it seems, by everyone, even written ones...) induce devastating illness in those who hear or see them, although the children are immune up until a certain age. This is the main thread of this (very strange, but interesting) novel, but there are others too. One is that of "forest Jews", of whom the narrator is one, who worship in tiny home made synagogues, using a Cronenbergesque living device as a conduit for the words of distant rabbis. Strange idea, or what? Marcus doesn't lack them, as his "Age of Wire and String" novel (?) illustrates. The present book is much more conventional, and even has a plot, as adults struggle to find some way of avoiding language-based extinction, which they do partly by carrying out gruesome Mengele-like experiments. You've got the idea that this isn't a feelgood book, but it's consistently interesting, and full of very odd notions, most extremely creepy. The book makes most of the recent "new weird" look like Enid Blyton, so if you're interested in new and strange things, read it. Marcus is obviously a strange talent who ploughs his own furrow remorselessly.
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Format: Paperback
I had no idea what to expect for this one as I was passed an ARC copy by a friend to read. To be perfectly honest I've finished it and I'm still not sure what to think.

The basic premise is simple - language becomes toxic and only the young are immune. The main protagonist is married with a teenage daughter, and the focus is on his struggle to survive and look after his family. He and his wife are also "forest Jews" - worshipping in a hidden hut in the forest, by themselves, listening to supposed broadcasts from some unknown location using somewhat vaguely described equipment.

The concept is good, the prose is excellent (though perhaps a little OTT at times). I did find it strangely compelling, though where it falls down is that I failed to find a coherent storyline, or at least one that - written simply - would keep the reader enthralled. I didn't understand why the forest jew angle was supposedly important (there is mention of the "disease" originating with this group of people, but not much beyond that). In the end I was just a bit confused about the motivations of some of the characters, and the relevance of the religious angle.
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Format: Kindle Edition
From the literary perspective I think this practically a flawless novel. Taut, often poetic prose constructs a haunting and menacing landscape, deeply sad family relationships, and descriptions of the bizarre utensils which are a big part of the story.
Without giving too much away, the plot concerns a virus that’s sweeping society which is caused by language. Only the children are immune, and their ordinary speech can inflict horrible reactions in adults.
I’m not a fan of the science fiction genre, and this is not the sort of book that I would normally read, but I was recommended it by someone whose judgement I trust and I was glad I did. It is an imaginative and original novel despite the bleak subject matter, and I was interested enough to see it through to the end. Communication, philosophy of language, identity, deceit, family bonds and religious dogmatism are all subject which are explored in the text.
I had to give it five stars. It is a very impressive piece of writing and I intend to explore more of his work. If you like experimental challenging writing then I recommend this - but it’s definitely not for everyone. It’s a nightmarish story told urgently, and it’s relentlessly odd. There’s barely a chink of light shining through the impenetrable queasy cloud he creates.
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