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on 25 April 2017
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on 16 August 2017
A lot of words but not a lot of sense.
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on 15 May 2005
I'd only seen Will Self on the t.v before (have I got news for you) and I was a fan of he's dry sense of humour. I guessed that it was time that I bought one of he's books and so I did, this being my introduction to him.
The first Short story is "The North London Book Of The Dead". Weird but somehow mesmerising and ultimately compelling. So I read that one in a few minutes and was desperate to read on. I waited though because I figured I would enjoy the next one more if I went to back to it later.
"Ward 9" is the second part and is my favourite story from the book giving an account of how working with mentally ill patients can start to make you become mentally ill yourself. Told in a way where you actually believe the story to be true. The character of Dr. Zack Busner first comes up here along with other characters who appear familiar simply by excellent discriptive writing.
"Understanding The Ur-Bororo" is the next part. Janner is the main character besides him here and he is a character who comes to life and is central to the story about a dead boring Amazonian tribe which if not in this book would seem utterly ridiculous but instead is quite intriguing.
The title story comes next but in my view is actually the worst part of the book because by this time there is a lot of expert language on the theory itself cropping up and it can become slightly confusing at times. However the charcters here are still very funny and ones already been used in previous stories i.e Zack Busner and Janner.
"Mono Cellular" is wonderfully bizarre with a good ending to what is quite a disturbing story involving a truly enigmatic character indeed. The title of the story says it all about it really.
The final story is entitled "Waiting" and it came as an exciting ending to the book after the two worst stores in my view. About a guy who goes mad from waiting and lashes out at a fellow driver, that is just the main peak of the story, but the basis is that he is obsessed with cutting time and eradicating the notion of having to wait, helped by a new friend called Carlos.
All I would say really is give this book a chance. It is definately a good place to start with Will Self books.
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on 30 July 2010
When a man finds his recently deceased mother window shopping in Crouch End, you begin to realise that Will Self's universe is a very strange place indeed. He is a writer who is fascinated with the world of obscure academia, maverick psycologists, and peripheral satellite towns. The reader is drawn deeply into to this hilarious, sometimes chilling, mix of the bizarre and the banal.

Will Self's debut, and it probably remains his finest work.
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on 27 May 2002
I found references to this book one day while browsing through amazon.co.uk. I found it interesting enough to give it a go. When I started reading it I couldn't put it down and now I must say it is one of my favourite books!
Will Self assembled a collection of short stories, all about insanity in one form or the other.
Taken individually, there are here some very well-written stories, from the dark and weird "Ward 9" to the pseudo-cientific and very funny "Quantity Theory of Insanity" or the last end-of-century-philosophy of "Waiting".
But it's when you take the book as a whole that it truly surprises you. I read the opening story and I thought that it was funny, but it seemed more of a prelude than a part of the book, especially when I finished reading the second story, which had a totally different mood. It was only on the third or fourth story that I realised that there was a reference to one of the previous ones. And by the end of the book, even the prelude made sense after all.
Will Self tied all of his stories together, so this doesn't feel like just a collection of stories, if feels like we are looking at another universe, his universe, a cohese and rational universe. Which makes it really thought-provoking - the events are funny, but so real that make you think: are we really like this?
And that's the whole point, I suppose.
A great great book, don't miss it!
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on 14 February 2000
Having come to this collection after reading "Tough Tough Toys for Tough, Tough Boys" I was disappointed. Yes, the stories are cleverly written and yes, the satire could raise a wry smile. But they lack the grit and realism-combined-with-surrealism of the previous collection. Worse, once you'd got the point of what was being satirised the story could drag. This is in sharp contrast to TTT f TTB, which had me turning the pages in hardly-daring anticipation.
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VINE VOICEon 23 April 2014
I got this as I was keen to try some new authors and always find Will Self very entertaining on TV. As this was a book of short stories and the reviews suggested it was a little more mainstream than some of his later work, I thought I'd give it a go. Most of the stories are loosely linked, some more so than others. The writing is very intelligent and more than a little stylised. Some of the less challenging stories I found very interesting, clever and entertaining. Others, where I sense Self is exploring the psychological territory that interests him most, I found to be harder work, and there was one that I gave up on altogether.

I'm glad I gave it a try, but perhaps it's a little too sophisticated for my reading skills. I won't rule out trying some of his other books as I can recognise he's a very gifted storyteller, but I'd prefer something that's a slightly easier read.
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on 10 October 2001
After reading this I found it difficult to work out if Self had entered my mind and shaken it all about or if I had entered his and lost mine somewhere within the process.In a similar way that Burroughs expertly projected his subject matter in Naked Lunch, Self takes us on an hilarious, nerve-wracking and exhausting journey through his mind and the minds of his characters, which ultimately leads to your head imploding around about the same time as it explodes. I have never laughed or cried so much at one sitting, nor have my ears bled for so long.Exquisite.
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on 1 December 2001
Hilarious, particularly to those with some experience of mental illness & its care - & I must applaud Self's groundbreaking invention of the 'triple-blind trial'.
Intellectually stimulating, and full of Self's characterstic wit.
To the reviewer who said "so what?",I don't think there is meant to be a simple unifying message in this book. What you get instead is a series of semi-linked scenarios, each bursting with ingenious observations & thought experiments.
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on 13 July 2006
This gently intersecting collection of short stories espouses a number of very funny satirical theories. Will Self doesn't just mock the scientists who come up with such theories, but also develops them with a twisted yet unquestionable logic that mocks society's ills at the same time. My favourite would be the Ur-Bororo tribe, who exhibit the usual array of spiritual and cultural beliefs you'd expect from aborignal peoples, but do so with the apathy that the English indulge Christianity and dinner parties.

But the scientific conceit is the books downfall; Will Self is just too good at the syllable drenched wordiness of Newspeak. We've seen him as a chattering head on the telly often enough to realise that using a parody of philosophy is really just an excuse for him to write in the manner he'd write in anyway. Cattle feed becomes 'farinaceous products aimed at the bipedal market' for one example. It's all entertaining enough to start with, or as part of a vox pop on whatever BBC2 programme he's drifted onto this week, but I don't want my novelists going round the Wrekin all the fucking time. It grates very quickly, because Will Self doesn't have the lyricism in his use of language that say Viv Stanshall had. Self comes across more as a provincial pedant to my ears.
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