The Weight of Numbers Paperback – 2 Mar 2006
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'The Weight of Numbers is unerringly well written, and engrossing to the last page' -- Lionel Shriver
Ings weaves an ingenious, shimmering web of contiguity and chance a feat of meticulous plotting. -- Alastair Sooke in the New Statesman, 27 March, 2006
It is unlikely there will be a finer written fiction this year Ings arrives at a new heart of darkness. -- Chris Petit in the Guardian, Saturday, March 11, 2006
One of the most exciting - and relevant - books of the last year. Booker material, for sure. -- Arena, March 2006
The Weight of Numbers is unerringly well written, and engrossing to the last page. -- Lionel Shriver
0ne of the most exciting - and relevant - books of the last year. Booker material, for sure.' -- Arena
It is unlikely there will be a finer written fiction this year. -- Chris Petit, Guardian
One of the most exciting and relevant books of the last year. Booker material, for sure. -- Arena
Simon Ings ambitiously genre-defying novel is a virtuoso display of imaginative plotting -- Financial Times, Novels of 2006
From millions of lives, spanning continents and generations, come three people. One of them must bury fifty-eight illegal immigrants who have suffocated in a lorry, thousands of miles from home. The opposite of fate is the weight of numbers.See all Product description
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The underlying subjects - the world as a place of chaos, the danger in trying to adopt a systemic belief in order to try and make sense of it, man attempting to conquer the universe before even putting his own house in order - are broad and interesting, although scarcely original. But it's hard to relate to any of the main protagonists, who too often seem like mere ciphers - particularly Nick Jinks, Ings' symbol for death and destruction, a cardboard cut-out of a character right down to his unimaginative pun of a surname. The only exception is Saul Cogan. He alone seems "real", he alone inspires any empathy - possibly due to the fact he is the only character who appears as a first-person narrator - but Ings fails to adequately explain his transformation from 60s hippy idealist to murderous people-smuggler.
I found this book interesting and unusual, and it's well worth reading it in order to make up your own mind. But I can't help feeling the author has tried to do too much, and has ended up not doing enough.
The story follows a variety of characters, loosely linked at various points of their lives, the irrepressible and criminal Nick, variously surnamed; Anthony, whose psychiatrist thinks he might be cured of homosexuality by ECT therapy; Saul's frightening experiences in Mozambique; and the belief of the pre-war authorities that bombing would cause mass hysteria in the streets of London, and how people coped in reality. It is a demanding read, but it is so compelling and involving, that I devoured this quite hefty read (420pp) in a matter of two days.
This is a book that holds you tight in its grip - I literally could not stop reading. There is a varied series of plots that inter-mesh with the lives of the characters. I feel that I will certainly want to read this again, it has the compulsive feel of a thriller, but though there are elements of that, it is really about being alive, living through terrible times and surviving (or in a few cases, not surviving). It is deeply, deeply impressive throughout. Get this book and save it for a time when you can concentrate without too many breaks. It's the best book I've read for a long time, it's breadth and variation is astonishing. The book of the year for me.
Understanding the fractured narrative was hard going. Reading without an understanding that could only be gained later in the book wasn't very enjoyable. Some episodes were simply too enigmatic; the inter-relationships between the characters, revealed gradually, strained the credibility of the narrative; and I probably expected, once it was revealed, the narrative to prove more satisfying. But this is an ambitious and novel work, and part of me wonders whether I am judging it according to inappropriate criteria.