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VINE VOICEon 1 June 2010
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
When looking at the back of the book, it's printed with; "Hostages are seized across town. The Gunman's Face Appears on TV. Leonard recognises him as an old friend. He has a choice to make." From this you'd be forgiven for thinking you're going to get an action packed rollercoaster ride of an action, thriller novel. What you actually get is a dull, lifeless attempt at building tension and actually leaves you feeling more exhausted than thrilled. Looking through other reviews, it seems like others feel the same way, in that they felt duped, expecting a thrill-ride but getting something that breaks down about a quarter of the way through.

The story focuses around Leonard Lessins; a very talented Jazz musician who's taking some time off due to an injury. On the news is a hostage taker who Leonard recognises as old acquaintance, Maxim Lermontov and gradually you become aware that Maxim is the type of man Leonard has always wanted to be. You see, Leonard is the cliché wet blanket who, throughout his entire life has taken the easy road, the path of least resistance and although he's had his successful Jazz career, he's always aspired to do something more politically relevant, and now is his chance to do something exciting. Well not really.

Perhaps this is where the book fails. By no means is it a bad book. Crace is a stunningly brilliant writer, filling the scenes with immense detail to let you know early on exactly what your main character is all about, and the scenes of Leonard's musical past are especially well done. Being given an expectation of it falling within a particular genre is where it failed for me. I found myself reading on and on waiting for something exciting to happen and it simply never did.

If the tagline of sorts had not been printed on the back, creating an expectation of something that never arrived, I possibly would have enjoyed this more than I did.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 2 April 2015
Few novelist range as widely as Jim Crace, b. 1946, from Christ's 40-day period in the wilderness [‘Quarantine’, 1997], through 16th-century England [‘Harvest’, 2013] to post-Apocalyptic America [‘The Pesthouse’, 2007]. Here the action takes place mainly in mid-2020s England with backstories taking from early in the millennium.

The third person narrator is Leonard ‘Less’ Lessing, nearly 50and a reasonably-famous jazz saxophonist suffering from a frozen shoulder which serves as a metaphor for his chronic inability to take any committed stand. Leonard is married to Francine, a teacher whom he met at a gig, but their relationship is under great strain due to his vacillating character [when they first met she called him ‘valiant’ now it is ‘dormouse’, ‘tortoise’ and ‘sofa socialist’] and the disappearance of her daughter, Celandine, following a violent argument with her mother.

In 2006, Leonard met a Russo-Canadian revolutionary, Maxim Lermontov aka Maxie Lemon [not exactly ‘A Hero of Our Time’], and his wife, Nadia, ‘who wrote her dissertation on Mondavi’s resistance handbook “Infiltration and Identity”’, and stayed with them in Texas where the three [‘Snipers Without Bullets’] plan an anti-Bush protest [AmBush]. Now both re-enter his life, in which the nearest he now comes to political action is fantasising about fighting Fascists in the Spanish Civil War where his boyhood hero, Mr Perkiss, lost an arm. Into this violent mix also comes 17-year old Lucie, daughter of the now-separated Nadia and Maxie who is involved with a violent faction called ‘Final Warning’.

There are some very good episodes in this book, Leonard’s remembering the live radio gig where he met Francine when, due to a blizzard that stranded his fellow players, he had to play a solo session. Even for someone knowing little about this music, it was riveting, switching from his planning the music, starting with Three Blind Mice [‘until Leonard’s tenor deprives the singers of their tune and embarks on eight measures of bare, but oddly poignant bleats, loosely pitched at first, then joyously unruly.’], his thoughts about the audience, his band and the fear/elation of playing solo.

A difficulty with setting the book in the future lies in having to describe its transportation, policing and communication technologies. Smarthouses and panel screens are mentioned but personal computers seem not to advanced much; however, cigarette packets bear labels suggesting that moderate smoking might prevent dementia. The storyline partly describes a meeting of international leaders gathering to for a Reconstruction Summit and this, and the planned protest [Take Up the Kerb], seems more like the 1990s.

The plot unfolds at a leisurely pace with much of the action taking place in Leonard’s imagination and memory. The police and security forces of the future appear to be inefficient in the extreme allowing Leonard to wander around a crime scene that is ringed with armed officers. Would they not use drones rather than helicopters to monitor a hostage site? The news reporters of the future, too, seem to wander away from big stories before they are fully resolved.

It is hard to know where to place this novel – it is not dystopia, a thriller, a socio-political analysis or a fable….. Crace peppers his story with quips and humour – Lenny Less playing more or less, whilst to take his mind off Nadia’s intimate presence Leonard reads the contents of her moisturiser.

The characters are drawn with various degrees of success – Leonard is, by turns, frustrating, bumbling and sympathetic, Francine’s loss of her daughter is emotionally charged whilst Lucy thinks and speaks with reckless teenage courage as she hatches and carries out her own plan. However, Maxie is rather cartoonish and the description of the attempt to interrupt a speech by Laura Bush is strangely flat [although Leonard’s internal reflections whilst waiting for her to arrive are funny] whilst Nadia is insubstantial, largely a focus for Leonard’s innocent imagination.

Other characters and locations are sketched in, allowing the author to poke [legitimate] fun at Texas patriots and their food and presenting Leonard as the typical naive Englishman. In Texas he thinks asking Nadia’s advice American novels since authors like ‘Gutkind, Salinas, Obama, Minutaglio, Hinojosa-Smith are unfamiliar’.

Not up to Crace’s usual high standard but worth reading, 7/10.
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VINE VOICEon 13 April 2010
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The only other Jim Crace novel I have read was 'Being Dead' which I wasn't that keen on. However with the chance to read and review his latest I thought I would give him another go, and I wasn't disappointed - so much so that I have even thought of giving 'Being Dead' another go.

The novel concerns Leonard Lessing a jazz saxophonist who goes by the stage name of Lennie Less. He is a liberal who likes to believe he is, and has been, a political activist in the direct action line - the truth is far from that - so when he hears of a hostage situation involving someone he used to know he once again believes he can jump into the fray and make a difference.

For me Leonard is an excellent character, someone who only takes chances with his music (his wife fell for him when he was at his experimental best at a solo jazz concert) but likes to imagine that he has been fighting the 'powers that be' - but also knowing that, at heart, he hasn't got it in himself to do that. The writing and pacing of the novel is just right and I enjoyed every page of it.

Overall a recommendation and a good read.
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on 9 June 2010
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I haven't read a Jim Crace book before, and after reading All That Follows I don't think I will again. The plot is based around a rather lacklustre jazz musician, Lenny Less, who seems to have lost his way. We discover Lenny had a somewhat more exciting past when he was a political activist, but even in this he never seemed to become fully engaged.
The blurb on the back of the book seems to suggest that the plot will centre around a hostage situation in which Lenny recognises one of the hostage takers as an old acquaintance from his political past, who "stole" his then love interest. That might have made the book more engaging, however it merely uses the hostage situation as a backdrop to less interesting themes.
Lenny makes contact with his old flame's daughter, whose father is the hostage taker, and becomes involved in a plan to try to end the hostage situation by creating a hoax kidnapping of the daughter. However, even in this Lenny cannot follow through, and backs out at the earliest opportunity. This is in tandem with the storyline that his wife's daughter has gone missing and the impact that loss has on himself and his wife.
The book is peppered with references to jazz, and whole pages are given over to describing jazz and how Lenny feels when he plays his saxophone. However, I'm afraid to say I just wasn't interested and it made an already dull book even more tedious.
Overall, I wouldn't recommend that anyone waste their time reading this book, unless they were a die-hard Crace fan.
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VINE VOICEon 12 May 2010
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I had previously read the same author's Continent, Arcadia, Being Dead and Quarantine and I'm a huge fan of all of them. The new novel, is however a bit of a disappointment. The first flag is the prose style- gone are the taut landscape descriptions or the deft characterization. There is a lot more dialogue and banter and the world that Crace describes here is more clearly our own...in other words a more traditional storytelling.

Crace sets up a thriller rather neatly- a middle aged man suddenly has his past catch up with him, along with all the feelings of guilt and failure with it. But after the first third the book seems to unravel. The central section set in 2006 has some elegant passages but the plot seems increasingly unbeleiveable. The characters turn out to be quite one-dimensional and ultimately rather dull in their flaws. The book builds slowly to a climax where everyone gets what they were really after and the hero is happy (ish).

Oh.

Ultimately i didn't really care about any of the characters or the world Crace draws out. The novel seems almost hurriedly finished off, occasional patches of brilliance in between long dull sections where the plot is expedited. I finished the novel with a shrug. I can still heartily recommend Crace's earlier books; I've read Continent at least three times, but thinking back it seems a different author... Crace almost seems lazy here. I'm not convinced he cares enough about the book to make me care. This book has its merits, such as the Texas section, or the passages decribing Jazz, and even on a bad day Crace is still a very very good writer... but the high points seem too far between for this novel to fully engage.
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This book has obviously confused mainstream readers, as shown by the largely negative reviews here. I'm not surprised: if I'd bought it expecting a hardcore thriller, futuristic sci-fi or 'modern literature' then I would have been disappointed. It's none of the above.
Instead, 'All That Follows' is a delicate, intimate story about human relationships and a minor midlife crisis. It may be set in the now and in the future, and it may well have some of the hallmarks of the thriller, but none of Jim Crace's novels are exactly what they seem and this is no exception. I've read nearly all of his books and this (for other fans) feels more like Arcadia in tone than Quarantine. It's wordy, a little bit wandery -- with precious little of his pared-to-the-bone, razor bright prose which borders on terse.
This book is also gloriously indulgent in places, especially when Crace goes to town on the jazz-playing segments. His description of an unscheduled performance which could have gone horribly awry but turned out to be the hero's best gig, his bravest moment, has the sense and feel of a real gig. You can almost hear the crowd and feel the sway.
Similarly, Crace creates possibly the most obnoxious character I've ever read, the guy who has taken hostages and who triggers the events of this book. We meet him mainly in flashback and he's a truly ugly geezer. Crace brings this bullying, loudmouth would-be revolutionary to life with so few words that I'm in awe. His skill is in creating a reality from bare lines of dialogue and acute observations on human behaviour.

However. This isn't the best Crace book to start with (try instead The Pesthouse or Being Dead). And if you don't already admire his writing then I can't really suggest that you'll enjoy All That Follows.
8/10
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 4 April 2010
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Lennie Lessing, jazz saxophonist, might be a demon on stage but he is a wimp in everyday life. In fact, despite radical aspirations, his life is a mess of inaction, indecision and embarrassment. When one night in 2024 he recognises a gun-toting hostage taker on the TV news as Maxie, a man he knew in Texas back in 2006, he finds himself both propelled back into his cowardly past and drawn into a plot with Maxie's daughter. Maxie is all action and no thought, Lennie is all thought and no action, yet both have wives remarkably tolerant of their spouse's failings. Lennie is, essentially, a performer, yet if his solos convince on stage, his attempts to appear in control generally fail in the rest of his life, and if he ever achieves redemption it is more by luck than courage.

Crace is a skilled story teller but the book, though reasonably compelling, never quite rings true. The most successful, and often very amusing, parts of the book are in the flashback to Texas 2006, where Lennie thought he was heading for a liaison with the woman he then discovers is Maxie's partner, and his fumbling attempts to be accepted into the couple's two-person radical movement. One problem is that the 2024 of the novel, despite suggestions of an increasingly repressive state, seems almost indistinguishable from 2010 - Crace's attempts to predict the technology of the future does not offer anything that is not part of current everyday life, apart from some renamed TV channels. Similarly, the politics of 2006 seem more in line with the radical movements of 20 more years ago, and I wonder why Crace did not locate the novel in the present rather than 14 years in the future. The portrayal of the jazzman's music itself is equally unconvincing - it would helpful to the novel if we felt that at least his playing had some passion, but this guy to me sounds more Acker Bilk than John Coltrane.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Jim Craces novel is set in the near future when devices such as internet TV are the norm and communication is as easy as pie. When Lenny Lessing, a listless jazz saxophonist spots a terrorist holding hostages on the television he recognises him as an old friend from his revolutionary days of political activism. What follows is "road trip" of sorts with his equally listless wife trying to get close to the action. In a way the terrorist actions are predetermined to fail, as are Lenny's attempts to rediscover some direction in his existence. And as the novel fades to black you are left unsatisfied and vaguely listless yourself. The heavily first person led prose ever only comes to life during Lenny's saxophone solo's, written about with a freedom and passion not captured elsewhere in the book. Sadly this is what makes the novel so frustrating, Crace can obviously write spell-bindingly gorgeous passages. If the book consisted of this level of writing it would be a world beater,
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
A sort of Sci-fi thriller, I suppose. Jim Crace is a proper writer. He's got the chops. so genre fiction - thrillers, sci-fi - should be by comparison to literary fiction a walk in the park, no? No. What he's written is a thriller which isn't very thrilling and an SF novel which doesn't invent anything futuristic -. It's all stuff that's already happening. His middle-aged ,boring protagonist is so authentically and skillfully painted as such that I had no further interest in what was going to happen to him after 7 pages. 'Ah!' but some commentator smarter than I might well be saying on reading this review. 'What you've misunderstood, Tony, is that this is a clever deconstruction of conventional genre narratives' and whatnot. Probably so. But it doesn't make it any more interesting to read.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
It's 2024 and the eve of jazzman Lennie Less' 50th birthday. Leonard is on a break from sax-playing - he has a frozen shoulder. Sitting in front of the telly, he hears about a siege in a town not so far away, then he sees a photo of the hostage-taker; it's a figure from his past. It's Maxie - Maxim Lermontov! What's he to do? Leonard used to aspire to be radical like Maxie, back in their student days when Dubya was in the White House, but he never went through with it. This time, rather than ring the police and tell them about Maxie, Leonard sets off to visit the siegeand bumps into Maxie's estranged daughter; this is the start of getting himself into some serious hot water, which is compounded by him not being truthful with his own wife Francine.

Read the blurb of this novel and you'd think it was a thriller - which may make your heart sink, for esteemed literary authors don't have a great record when they turn their hand to thrillerdom. However, 'All that follows' only has some thriller elements, at heart it is really a novel of mid-life crisis.

Leonard is very good at talking himself out of things, the only time he lets his heart really rule his head is when he's playing sax. Like jazz hero Coltrane, he likes going off-piste in his improvisations. The rest of the time, apart from a real hardline health-food diet, he takes the path of least resistance in life, and being around all day is driving him into being very passive. It's affecting his relationship with Francine too, which is already under pressure over the absence of her daughter Celandine. But seeing Maxie makes him want to do something spontaneous and rebellious before he's 50 - it just doesn't turn out quite the way he anticipated it. Having just had a certain big birthday myself, I was very pre-occupied with it looming, so I did sympathise with Leonard more than I expected to, and I did like Francine's strength of character in particular.

I've read two other Crace books that I really enjoyed; Arcadia and Signals of Distressare both better than this novel, however 'All that follows' is not bad - just not quite as good as the others.
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