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Infinite Ground Paperback – 4 May 2017
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Astonishing * Herald, Books of 2016 * Sublimely tricksy * Irish Times, Books of 2016 * Weird, wonderful, totally indefinable -- Justine Jordan * Guardian, Books of 2016 * A startlingly original mind... Fantastically ambitious * Scottish Review of Books, Books of 2016 * Stunning... I doubt you've read anything quite like it -- Jeff VanderMeer, author of The Southern Reach trilogy Alive with ideas and cock-eyed intelligence, brimming with passages of genuine brilliance... Infinite Ground does that magical thing that only the very best novels do: it makes you see the world afresh -- Graeme Macrae Burnet, author of His Bloody Project Electrifying... Strange, terrifying, riveting, and written with scintillating intelligence -- Neel Mukherjee, author of The Lives of Others A novel of intelligence, grace, cunning and warped imagination... A bravura performance -- Stuart Evers, author of Your Father Sends His Love Labyrinthine, beautifully written and teeming with ideas... Frighteningly good -- Lee Rourke, author of Vulgar Things A brave new voice ... Martin MacInnes is a writer to look out for' -- Jenni Fagan, author of The Sunlight Pilgrims
One of the most original, intoxicating and celebrated debuts of 2016, Infinite Ground is a novel of the all-too-brief splendour of being alive and the enduring splendour of the natural world.See all Product description
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MacInnes uses the familiar narrative ploy of the detective story to tread ground already well worn by Thomas Pynchon in his shorter fiction (most obviously 'The Crying of Lot 49'), though with less of the intellectual horseplay and knowing erudition. 'Infinite Ground' follows an Inspector on a missing person's case during the course of which (surprise, surprise) his own identity starts to fray at the edges and, indeed, so does the identity of everything around him. There's a Burroughsian focus on infection, or specifically, infections which colonise the individual and strip them of their will and finally their own being. Add to this a series of epigraphs from a fictional anthropological study of ' Tribes of The Southern Interior' - which to me recalled Borges' 'Dr Brodie's Report', but also the alien melancholy of Ben Marcus' 'Age of Wire & String' - and we're still not there - there's even the ghost of Don DeLillo or David Foster Wallace in MacInnes' portrayal of the surreal boredom of the corporate world that provides the locus of the Inspector's investigations at the start of the book.
Of course, the Postmodern delights in pastiche, and we generally expect all literature that is engaging to echo, reflect and modify the work of other authors. However, 'Infinite Ground' leaves you with the impression of something of a different order - a novel preoccupied with questions of authenticity that flaunts its own inauthentic nature. Reading it, I felt at once comforted by being on such familiar ground (something akin to the pleasures of watching Netflix's 'Stranger Things' series), but also irritated that the rope trick MacInnes continually performs is, well, performed on 'old rope'.
I wouldn't want to pass over MacInnes' conspicuous talents. He is clearly a gifted prose stylist and although in odd moments he slips into the purple and portentous, for the most part, this is a skilfully controlled exercise in crafted paranoia. There's an almost unwavering tone of veiled melancholy- for all bizarre turns of the narrative, the voice that speaks is swathed in the deadening grey of the depressive.
He also riffs on ideas, extending and morphing them to absurd extremes (a section in which the hero moves his way towards the centre of a crowd, only to discover that there is no centre, is particularly affecting) in a manner that is consistently entertaining. His characterisation is weak, though this is a charge that could be levelled at a host of postmodern writers - after all, the people in these books are often vehicles for ideas in a highly foregrounded manner.
Of course, if you haven't read of any of the authors I've cited above - I can promise you that 'Infinite Ground' promises a host of pleasures - though it's obviously arguable that you might be better off reading his antecedents in the first place. I do look forward to whatever he cooks up in the future.
It is never quite certain what is happening. Events have the illogic of dream. But Martin MacInnes' evocative prose carries the reader along.
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The style is unlike anything else I have read and it wasn't for me.Read more