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3.2 out of 5 stars
3.2 out of 5 stars
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on 7 September 2000
In a slightly different perspective to most reviewers I read the Tesseract first and then backfilled later with The Beach.
The unique point for me was the structure of the story. Garland creates a series of beautifully crafted plotlines that give depth to both the characters and events. His attention to detail and use of Filipino history and culture creates a gritty reality where you can almost feel the heat and humidity. Having lived and worked in the Philippines I really felt the book come alive and each page brought new twists and layers of subtlety. By the end I felt less as though I'd read a book than unfolded an intricate puzzle. For me, this made the whole experience immensely satisfying.
By comparison I found the Beach, although a good read, relatively mundane. I can see why so many readers failed to make the jump. I just hope that Alex Garland continues to produce books in the vein of the Tesseract.
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on 12 February 2004
Close to the gripping read that was 'The Beach', Garland's second bestseller shares the originality and deepness portrayed beforehand.

From the beginning of this book comes an air of curiosity, as the reader is sent spiralling into a web of episodes, leading to the inevitable marring of violence.
The story begins in (the highly appropriate) 'roach infested hotel' as Sean awaits the arrival of Gangster Don Pepe. Rising is the immediate cloud of mystery, all but setting the pace, tone and estranged excitement that remains throughout.
Acknowledged is the difficulty the young author faced as he aimed to reiterate the sheer quality of 'The Beach'. Although somewhat disorderly and at times slow paced, in grasping the cultural background and social landscape of one country, Garland has put together a touching, compassionate, yet no less satisfactory novel.
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on 8 February 2002
having read the book and listened to the tape i can say that it has lost nothing in the translation. all of the verbal imagery that garland sculpted so marvelously in the book comes across well. it was his first book the beach that got me reading regularly and this just got me reading too much. the story told from three perspectives is excellent, remenicscent of pulp fiction or lock stock + 2 smokin barrels, although films garlands imagery is just as graphic. the three characters all have individual backgrounds that are each as belivable as each other and not just the fictional stereotypes. my favorite is the moralistic gangster who cant bring himself to shoot the dying cat that they ran over. it jumps from one character to the other just as you are getting emersed into one of them leaving you at a cliffhanger. that makes you want to get through the next couple of chapters so you can get back to it. but by then you want to get back the the one you've just read. this can keep you reading it until you get cramp from sitting down. the actual plot is fairly non eventfull with alot of the book taken up by flashbacks. its a bit like several different stories in one, neatly weaved together. there are a few of the characters and story lines that i would have prefered him to have gone further into and others he hadn'nt, but there's only so much you can fit on a few pages.
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on 18 January 2003
I felt an initial disappointment from the first page of The Tesseract. Having loved the style and sharpness of The Beach, The Tesseract at first appeared rather derivative and no where near as ambitious. However, as the story slowly drew me in I began to appreciate it's unique format. When Garland breaks off from one character to another the suspense is excruciating. Just as this new character starts to take shape and you stop worrying about the last one he will break off again into an entirely new story, yet all are cleverly interlinked. In The Tesseract Garland demonstrates the perfection of a slow boil.
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VINE VOICEon 22 July 2002
After being unimpressed by The Beach I almost didn't bother with this but I glad I did.
This is a complex book which demand the readers attention and doesn't spell everything out. It won't be liked by those who want the author to give them everything 'on a plate'. I can understand why those who thought so highly of The Beach might struggle a bit with this.
The core of the novel unfolds over a few hours of an evening in Manilla. Around this through a variety of flash backs Garland paints a powerful picture of modern day Manilla and the people who live their. There aren't really any heroes or villains in this just people coping with their everyday lives. I felt totally caught up in the lives of the characters and gripped by the climatic ending. Its a book I'll be thinking about for a long time to come.
Garland has been called the 'new Graham Greene' and on the basis of this the comparisons are entirely justified. I just hope the success of The Beach doesn't encourage him to write more in that vein.
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on 20 June 1999
Before I criticise this book in any way, I would first like to say that it was excellent. I found it gripping and very readable, just as 'The Beach' was, but if pressed I would have to admit that this book just does not show the same originality and imagination that Garland demonstrated with his debut novel. The plot seems a little contrived, as though random elements have been brought together in an attempt to create a storyline. The vistas that Garland paints are excellent and descriptive, but it is a shame that they fail to hang together slightly. The relevance of the title is questionable - I failed to see why 'The Tesseract' was relevant to the novel at all. However, this book is still very good and worth reading, just not the classic, inspired piece of story-telling that 'The Beach' was. Roll on the next Garland novel!
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on 8 January 1999
This is one of the most finely constructed books I have read in years, built around one single event which brings together several disparate individuals and stamps itself upon their lives. A vital and naturalistic book in many respects, yet shot through with a hard, unflinching mysticism. The descriptions of Manila are excellent, with a real sense of the country and the lifestyles of the inhabitants, and the sense of threat is excruciatingly real. Throughout the story one has the feeling that one is peering down on real events. As someone who normally reads Le Carre, etc, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys well-crafted and original writing.
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on 31 January 2015
Merchant seaman Sean is waiting in a deserted hotel in Manila for Don Pepe, who runs a shipping protection racket. As he waits, he gets more and more paranoid, until when the Don arrives, with three henchmen in tow, he shoots two of them and makes a run for it. This exciting and promising beginning then fades away into reminiscences of the childhoods of one of the henchmen, and then of Rosa, who was in love with a fisherman but it didn’t work out, and is now a doctor who lives with her family in the same city district, and then to a narrative of Alfredo, a researcher into street-kids, and then of two street-kids themselves. Towards the end, Sean reappears, being chased by the remaining two henchmen, and jumps through the window of Rosa’s house, and there’s a gun battle in which Sean and one of Rosa’s family are shot, while the street-kids watch. And then it’s over. There aren’t any major twists or surprises and there’s lots of extraneous matter. The deal with Don Pepe is never clarified, nor are the consequences of his or Sean’s death explored. Stylewise, the family parts have some flattish Hollywood-type dialogue (cute but arguing children scene, teen girls talking about boys scene, etc), whereas the action parts are exciting and credible (the sheer noise that guns make, and so on), and I liked the descriptions of the slums of Manila. Basically, it feels like the first draft of a potentially good thriller, or perhaps the first draft of a not-so-great Manila soap. Not terrible, but a little disappointing after the brilliance of ‘The Beach’.
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on 24 February 2009
The story starts intriguingly enough, and then fragments into a number of seemingly unrelated subplots. This isn't neccessarily bad, but I felt that none of the characters were really fleshed out, and the stories themselves seemed more like rough sketches than real tales. It's a short book, and perhaps if it was a little longer it would have worked better. In the end though I wish I had spent the time reading something else.
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on 30 June 1999
In style, structure and content this reminds me of several excellent Latin American realist novels, but the various plot strands in the Tesseract are fairly weak. It reads like a series of well crafted writing exercises. Garland has a good feel for his location and the characterisation is much stronger than in The Beach, but the first book had a better plot and more interesting ideas.
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