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3.2 out of 5 stars
37
3.2 out of 5 stars
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on 31 March 2013
I really liked the way this book is written. In some ways it is more like a collection of short stories than a novel as each chapter sees "communion town" from a different persons point of view. An interesting book.
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VINE VOICEon 16 November 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
A hallucinogenic book. Thompson presents us with 10 chapters, each a different character describing their experiences in a city almost like any other great city: of slums, murders, subway stations, warren-like alleys and bright public façades. The Flâneur of Glory Port - a Jack-the-Ripper type bogeyman - and deformed mutants haunt the shadows in many of the stories. The narrators vary in widely in social position and the stories in timbre. A hard-boiled detective speaks as if channelling Sam Spade, another Sherlock Holmes. Slaughtermen, immigrants, reclusives, automatons, all speak and reveal a different city, one that is just slightly futuristic, tangible, chilling and mesmerising.
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VINE VOICEon 12 July 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I admit I was suckered in by the cover design and the China Mieville quote on the cover, unfortunately those are the two best things about this 'novel'. Supposedly it is a series of interlinked stories all set in the same fictional city. Beware the word 'interlinked'.

The book fails because each story doesn't have it's own distinctive voice and the city never really feels like a character in its own right, the writing style is flat and undistinguished and there is no real point to any of the narratives.

Overall a disappointing read with no depth.
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VINE VOICEon 4 November 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Wow this is a weird book, it has to be said, but it is written in such a way that you just become caught up in it, and the unbelievable becomes normal. An amazing read, it really takes you by surprise. You never quite know what is going on, whilst simultaneously feeling like you understand everything.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I thought this sounded interesting, a novel about a city, a series of interconnected short stories. Unlike many others I like short stories, and I've read a few books where the stories are linked in some way, such as David Mitchell's "Ghostwritten", "Finbar's Hotel", and Thomas Beller's "Seduction Theory", so I had high hopes for this.

Sadly the ten stories, although well written, just aren't that interesting - none of them really seem to go anywhere, nothing really seems to happen, and the characters are sketches at best, often nameless and just referred to as he, she, or I. The interconnected nature is primarily that the stories all happen in the same city, but this in itself is also rather hazy - is it in America, Europe, Asia...? It all feels so skeletal and unfinished, and even though I've only just finished reading the book not a single one of the stories has stuck in my memory.

Yes, it is well written, but as a collection of short stories it just doesn't work for me. It's another book that doesn't really warrant the hype it has been receiving.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 5 November 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The inclusion of "Communion Town" on the 2012 Booker Prize longlist may be slightly confusing to the prospective reader. Normally the prize consists of novels and this is far more a collection of short stories, as the subtitle of the book indicates, albeit ones that are heavily themed and lightly linked. This isn't a reflection on the quality of the writing, which is very strong, but more one on managing reader expectations.

The stories contained here evoke a strange city that is hard to place both geographically and in terms of time period. At times the feel of the fictitious city appears Asian, at others European or even American. In terms of time period, there is almost feudal agriculture and bubonic plague mixed with electricity and other modern items. Sam Thompson's style changes from chapter to chapter, often evoking some major literary styles. For me the sole of the book is most strongly evoked in the Sherlock Holmes style "The Significant City of Lazarus Glass" which talks of "the Art of Memory" with the city comprising of a combination of reality and the memories and experience of all the residents. Equally strong is the presence of the "flâneur", the wanderer of nineteenth century French literature.

Fiction generally evokes a response on the range between head and heart, and this collection is very much towards the head end of the range. It's cleverly constructed and the images of one story will reappear in others, usually from another person's perspective. These are quite subtle though and the reader has to be alert to these. It's a book that will probably reveal more with repeated readings as the clues are not always strongly signposted. This is a good thing and prevents the book from coming over as "too clever" - it wears its themes relatively lightly although it is a book that could probably only have been written by an English teacher or lecturer - it's driven by the style more than any narrative.

The city is revealed as a collection of experiences, almost all of which are dark and dissociating. It's a fascinating and well constructed collection that opens up like one of those Chinese puzzles. Just when you think you are getting somewhere, you find you are more lost than ever. For me though, it lacks a bit of heart that would have made it a five star book. It is though well worth checking out.
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on 20 January 2013
Absorbing and thought provoking....grabs you and won't let go! Going to read it again and again. Nice to have your head messed with!
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on 16 October 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Sam Thompson's novel describes his city from the perspective of different characters. With each of these comes a different method of telling the story. Therefore, we get almost ghost stories, detective stories and even stories about stories.

This does mean, for most of the novel, the narrative is somewhat fragmented and it feels more like a series of short stories than a coherent whole. Ultimately, I think Thompson reconciles all of the stories, but I'm sure this is not to everyone's taste. There are positives and negatives. On the plus, one never gets tired of any single part of it. Thompson gets to show off his considerable writing chops and one can enjoy his solution.

Less positively, though, for most of it, the narrative does feel a little incoherent. I don't think this is necessarily a problem. The likes of Italo Calvino have done similar things with form to great effect. However, I do realise it is not to everyone's taste.

For my money, though, Thompson has been mostly successful in demonstrating how point of view can radically change how something appears. It is also a fun run through different fictional genres. Recommended.
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VINE VOICEon 27 September 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The subtitle of this book, "a city in ten chapters" implies a novel, but it takes the form of ten short stories, each one introducing new characters, voices and stories. What they seem to have in common is the city as a character in its own right. The fictional city of Communion Town is a university town and a population of students, an underground Metro system and a beach. It is an intriguing place which regularly attracts new visitors, but it is also dangerous - the narrator of the first story tells of a scary terrorist conspiracy and there is a serial killer at large. There are exploitative employers.

I'm not sure I understood it fully but I enjoyed the writing and would like to go back and reread it to try and piece it together better, to savour the stories, pick up the layers of references and spot the references that are repeated between the chapters/stories.
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VINE VOICEon 5 September 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I approached "Communion Town" with a fair bit of expectation: a Booker longlisted title; purported shades of Italo Calvino; interlocking stories - these are all the kinds of things I usually go in for.
Yet with "Communion Town" I did something I rarely do, which is put a book down for good before I'd finished it - and, not to boast, but I recently made it through William Faulkner's "The Sound and the Fury"; ie, I don't give up on a book just because it is getting a bit tricky or I don't immediately understand everything that is going on.
I got just under half way through "Communion Town". I found the first and third chapters - which deal, to an extent, with a kind of 7/7 terrorist attack and a young boy's fantasy toy town, respectively - reasonably interesting, if not overwhelmingly so. Yet the pleasures these 60 or so pages offered up were completely drowned by the bland, drawling chapters 2 and 4. The 2nd chapter deals with a bloke essentially discovering the guitar and trying to write some tunes. I may be wrong, but his attempts to piece together the perfect tune felt like a prolonged metaphor of the writer's attempts to cobble together a story. It was a bit dull, seemed to go nowhere, but was tolerable. Chapter 4 was a different story. It is like a pastiche of pulp fiction, which might work if it wasn't 60 pages. If I want to read 60 pages of bad writing, I can go and buy a book off the crime shelves in any bookshop. Here's an example, from page 100:
"Dave sat opposite, looking about as reassuring as a vending machine in a lift"
These overly laboured similes are scattered throughout the book, and they felt like someone doing a bad impression of what they think good writing - good writing a la Martin Amis - might sound like; they were thrown in just for the sake of it, rather than being there to enlighten the reader as to any grand scheme arching over the novel or the scene. Here's another:
"The air lay like piping hot asparagus soup"
There are moments when Thompson nails it:
"His small features... dwarfed by the swags of his cheeks and chins... his short thighs... puddled over the seat of his chair"
Yet for every bit of spot-on writing I came across in the first 130 pages, there were numerous moments when I cringed, scratched my head or just plodded along uninterested. A book such as this may well have its pay-off in the final pages, yet half way through I felt I'd been rewarded with nothing; had a dwinlding interest in what was going on and, though it may sound harsh, that I didn't see the point of spending another four hours or so reading the rest of it. I may be wrong, but judging by other reviews that I've looked at, I'm not. The book sounds like one with an interesting concept, yet the concept just didn't seem to come to life in this reader's hands.
However, as the blurb says: "This is the story of a place imagined anew by each citizen who walks through the changing streets," and it is just possible that this book may feel wholly different in the hands of a different reader.
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