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on 13 December 2002
This is a great read, but not for the faint-hearted. In the bizarre journey of Carter's narrator through an unnamed South American country, there are scenes that may cause revulsion as well as huge stocks of humour and poetry.
The premise is a battle against the forces of reason, fought by an inventor mastermind, Dr Hoffman, using metaphysical machines that turn the mundane objects into semi-illusory projections of fantasy and desire.
It is also a love story, but one in which Carter is able to explore her fascination with blurring the boundaries between things, people, and both as monstrous and fantastical amalgams of the two materialise throughout the work.
What makes this an important work, I think, is the way Carter achieves a freedom from any one "position". One side does win the final battle, it is true. But the author's greatness surpasses any attempt to pigeonhole her as, in this context, either simply in favour of rationalism or, indeed, the living Freudian nightmare in which her hero subsists so painfully. It is a fable in which Carter's dark humour makes mischief, playing practical jokes on the reader and characters alike.
Angela Carter is a great mind, an extraordinary thinker, with an almost incomparable ability to weave her visions into a literary cloak of glittering baroque invention whose extent seems unbounded, and unboundable.
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on 11 February 2014
This book is strange, unnerving in places, and sometimes a bit "out there" but I cannot emphasise enough how much I loved, loved, LOVED this book. Angela Carter's prose is like ice water tinkling over a crystal stream - it is sharp and enervating and makes you question everything you thought you ever knew about humanity.

There is so much going on in this book - at face value it is a series of picaresque incidents which lead the hero, Desiderio "The Desired One", a man of lowly social status to save society from Dr Hoffman's infernal desire making machines. Of course, the machines only produce what men desire themselves - and they have some very strange desires - which almost leads to the annihiliation of the "city" from which Desiderio emerges. Just bubbling beneath the surface of the story is a palimpsest of so many texts from which Carter has obviously taken her inspiration - right from Chaucer through Swift (and a very racy interpretation of the Houhynhms), Pope, Milton, Bronte and beyond. Because it has its roots in 18th century literature, it does that thing that 18th Century literature does, which provides space within the fiction to question the nature of the society we as the readers are situated within. I had a moment of epiphany whilst reading the following: "...our very spirits were tormented without cease by deceiful images springing from that dark part of ourselves humanity must always consent to ignore if we are to live in peace together;..." p. 251 - when I realised that as people it is impossible to achieve all of our desires and live in peace together. Living in society necessitates a sacrifice at at least some levels for every single person who participates within it.

Carter is such an inspirational writer - this book will seize you by your vitals and drag you on a rollercoaster ride of enlightenment. Don't miss it.
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VINE VOICEon 22 December 2010
Angela Carter writes like an angel on acid, and nowhere is her writing more trippy than in this book. It's a story of a young man from a ministry in an unspecified city in an era which seems to hover unobtrusively somewhere between medieval times and the 21st century. The city is under siege from Doctor Hoffman and his hallucination engine, so that nothing is ever what it appears to be. Carter can use language like absolutely no-one else I've ever come across. I've never experienced synesthesia except while reading her books. She can put one word unobtrusively alongside another in such a way that you can actually smell what she's talking about, even though that smell is contaned in neither of the two words. Nearly 20 years after I read this book, I can stll remember its exact taste. After so long spent criminally out of print, I am very happy to see it's finally been re-printed.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 18 August 2012
I'm convinced that, had she been around longer, Angela Carter would done even more to profoundly change the face of world fiction that she already had the opportunity to. Of all the writers no longer with us, she's the most whose lost output I regret the most, the one whose lack makes me saddest. This is a colourful cavalcade, a scary romp, an iridescent fling through time and space. Through dream and reality. Through magic and... more magic. It's the kind of adult fairytale she was clearly born to write, and wrote so so well. Entrancing, hypnotic, beautifully mad.
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on 7 July 2005
A very interesting read. Set in a unnamed South American country which implies this is magical realism. Dreamlike and distorted. What is real and what is imagined? I enjoyed reading this and couldn't put the book down... let Angela Carter take you on a surreal journey.
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on 31 October 1997
Usually, Carter's novels and stories enmesh the reader and make sense in their intricate descriptions of complicated relationships and turbulent emotions. This book got me completely lost. But read it anyway if you're a fan of Angela Carter --it makes you appreciate her wild imagination and sense of beauty.
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on 12 April 2011
I'm a massive Angela Carter fan and anything she's written is worth reading. However the plot here was rather erratic, and while i felt she was trying to make some kind of philosophical point, I didn't quite grasp it. Frankly based on the description I was expecting some more fanciful and enjoyable smut, but found it lacked Carter's usual sensuality. Having said that I'd urge you to ignore any reviews claiming it is disgusting and offensive etc.
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on 12 January 2014
This was a book club choice of book so several of us read it and discussed after. It is weird but intriguing.
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on 10 June 2010
The item was pretty much as listed - an old copy from a London library. May be a battered first edition!
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