on 11 February 2007
This is the story of Adam Spark, an 18 year old fast food worker who suffers from learning difficulties. After being hit on the head while saving a "ween" at a American football game Adam finds that he has acquired superpowers that allow him do things like speed up time and slooooooooooooooow it down. But these powers make up little of this book and it's the story of Adam's relations with his sister Jude and girlfriend Bonnie that really carry it through.
This book is told in a broad Scottish accent but if you are familiar with the likes of Irvine Welsh then you'll find this no problem (I actually quite like reading literature in a scotch accent, dunno why). It's one of those books where you can just fly through the pages. Each sentence flows into the next with skilful ease and once you're past the opening few pages there is no chance of you getting bored.
Adam himself is a character that is easy to sympathise with despite that fact he is violent, has misguided attitudes and in places is down right weird but these are all things that he cannot help and Alan Bissett deftly keeps you aware of this. Adam's sister Jude kind of doubles up as his carer and you feel for her as she longs for a life of her own with her girlfriend and not have the burden of looking after Adam holding her back but she is scared of how Adam will react.
I won't ruin the story by giving you anymore detail but I'll let you know that Adam does redeem his failings and his superpowers (or supposed superpowers) do come in use.
This is book that is humorous and heart breaking in equal measures. A book that a basis in the true reality of working class life and one you sound definitely read. The only criticism I can really have of this book is the cover, which kind of makes it look like a kid's book which it really isn't. But, you the old saying......Never judge a book by its cover.
This was a random recommendation generated on a website that I took a chance on. I'd never heard of the author or title before.
The premise I felt was a little different to the actual plot, but I did still enjoy it.
It was a surprise though, from the first page, to have to read this quite slowly, as it is written in both Scottish dialect, and reflecting the learning difficulties of the narrator, Adam. This made it hard to read, with little punctuation and words spelled in 'interesting' ways. I'm a fast reader, so to read so carefully was quite annoying at first, but I did get used to it. I can see that some reviewers haven't enjoyed this aspect at all. For me, I eventually did come to terms with it and liked the insight into Adam's mind.
Adam Spark has always been different. It seems he's always been bullied, taken advantage of at school, and never really had many friends. Now 18, he lives with his sister who is clearly exhausted trying to live her student life while paying the bills and taking care of her brother while their parents are 'in Oz' (clearly no longer living). Adam spends a lot of time listening to Queen music and working in a fast food chain, doing his best to become Employee of the Month but more of a hindrance to everyone in his workplace than a help.
The story takes us through a few months of his life, as he tries to fit in with a local gang, meets and feels an attraction for a new co-worker with her own health issues, and tries to be a superhero (possibly even gaining superpowers!) helping others. All the while, his sister is yearning for her freedom and a new love that Adam is doing his best not to notice and then not to accept.
The reader is aware of the wider world Adam lives in, what is going on around him that he either isn't capable of seeing or chooses not to. It makes for a fascinating narration, and Adam can be both frustrating and endearing.
Jude, the socialist student sister, is a strong feminine influence in his life, with her own backstory that Adam seems oblivious to, and I really enjoyed Adam's burgeoning romance with a fellow Queen fan.
It would work well on film/television, with some wonderful parts and lines.
Humorous and at times moving, this is a memorable read about an unusual young man that ends nicely for him and those around him, with just enough hint at what is to come for a feel-good close.
One that older teens might like (if they have the patience to wade through the writing style) and adults who enjoy stories with unique narrators.
on 25 October 2005
Make way for a new super hero...he works at a burger bar, loves Queen, lives with his sister Jude, and oh yeah, can see lights around people's heads and speaks to machines...just a day in the life of The Incredible Adam Spark, written by the equally Incredible Alan Bissett. If you have been disillusioned by literature recently,(Chick lit, New man lit, Anyone off TV trying to get another pay cheque Lit) then pick yourself up a copy of this and cheer in delight - exciting, funny and intelligent literature has not disappeared!
The story centres around Adam and his life in and around Falkirk (the author's home town) and his increasing struggle with the good and bad in his character, exacerbated by the fact he has had a knock to the head, and miracuously now has some form of super powers. The first person standpoint catapults you straight into Adam's excitable narrative, full of the cartoon sound effects and popular culture references that saturate his world. The wonder of the book is how the narrative can turn from comedy to something more sinister and ominous in the blink of an eye. The reader likes Adam and feels sorry for him, yet never trusts him, and this is what makes the writing so addictive and effective. Set against the back drop of the protests against the Iraq war, there is a subtle depth to this book - where is the line between the polarities of Good and Evil, and if Adam finds it so hard to distinguish, then how does that bode for the so called leaders of the free world?
Hey maybe I'm reading too much into it, but with such a great book ,its hard not to find yourself thinking in Adam's voice.
This book should become a cult classic with any luck, and if you have any sense, you should get yourself a copy of Bissett's first novel Boyracers - just to see where Adam Spark originates from - and because it's a bloody good read aswell. Viva La Bissett!
on 7 January 2014
As someone from the same neck of the woods as the main character, I should be OK with the vernacular. But I wasn't. I gave up after 2 pages of torture (and flicking through to see it didn't change) as I found I had to say the words out loud (in my mind) to make sense of the thoughts of the character. While it is a technique to convey the thoughts, in this case I simply found it too much of a hindrance and actually just made me think "who cares?". Didn't even send it to a charity shop, I'm afraid, and this is one fof the few books I've ever not read to the end (Harry Potter 2 was another) purely because it was not enjoyable. Maybe I should think back as to why I ever bought it in the first place (and I know I did rather than receiving it as a present).
Sorry if I don't say much about the content - for obvious reason - but in this case the technique was the main issue.
on 11 September 2005
This book is both a comedy and a tragedy with a protagonist who manages to be lovable and creepy at the same time. There's also a lot of political content and the writer's socialist views, hate of McDonalds and love of comic book heros are evident! If you can get your head around reading Scottish dialect (ie, if you enjoyed Trainspotting or James Kelman stuff) you'll really like this book. I laughed and almost cried throughout - parts of it just really ring true, even to someone from Yorkshire! It's rife with intercontextual references so you have to get most of these to fully appreciate. If you're easily offended, probably not the best thing to read, although all the non-PC words and phrases do not come across as the writer's views but just an excellent attempt at realism, unrestrained by censorship. I didn't really expect to enjoy it as much as I did - I actually only bought it because the writer used to teach me - but I took it on holiday for a bit of beach reading and finished it well before the week was up.
What a delightful book. Once you get over the writing style (it is told in the vernacular from a first-person perspective) the story is engaging, moving, and hilariously funny in places. Adam is a fantastic character and I really hope Alan Bissett brings him back at some point in another book.
This is what I'd call an undiscovered gem - a book which few people know of, but which really should reach a much wider audience. Absolutely wonderful.
on 16 February 2006
This is the first time I have been moved to write a review on Amazon. What can I say? This book is fantastic. It is the best book I have read in a long time. I must say, cover reviews are not usually as accurate as those on this title. Although put off for the first couple of pages by the use of the vernacular, I soon got over this, in fact I found it added to, rather than detracted from, the reading experience, making this an easy and quick book to read.
on 26 October 2011
What a good read and a tremendous insight into the lives of many young people with learning difficulties who are also struggling with adolescence, social deprivation and difficult life circumstances. I have worked with young people like Adam Spark and his story is not unusual. I kept comparing this with "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the night" and thought this was a far more realistic portrayal of the life of a working class boy with this kind of difficulty.
Each of the incidents Adam was involved in had happened to one of the young people I have known, the suspicion of paedophilia;being manipulted by gangs;unable to accept/understand bereavement; likewise the anger of the carer who feels trapped and unable to cope.
I wondered if the author had know someone like this to have benn able to get inside Adam's skin so well and avoid some of the obvious sentimentality.
I loved the style and the greek writing was a very clever device.
I will definitely read "Hoodies" after this!
on 24 October 2013
i bought this as a holiday read, the only bad thing about this book was id read it in 2 days because i cudnt put it down. it had me in stitches 1 min then a bit anxious the nxt, sort of on the lines of the film dead mans shoes. loved this book, and ive got the other 2 to take on my nxt in a few weeks.
on 22 November 2005
Good reviews abound for this, the author's second novel. IMHO, having read a couple of them, they seem to skip over some issues I think detract from it a little.
It is a well-written, fun book, and one of its strong points is the narrative voice: we hear Adam Spark clearly and effectively, in the same dialect/accent vein as Irvine Welsh gave us Trainspotting's characters. There is some unevenness though, and the voice sometimes slips into Bissett's own authorial tone. Other minor but common interruptions undermine the quality of this voice.
Other strong points are the depiction of Sparky and his sister's relationship, and the flashbacks involving their parents. There is strong characterisation here and pathos that does, however, occasionally slip into sentimentality.
The conceit of super powers is an engaging and comic one, but by the end of the book (I won't spoil it!) I was unsure what they amounted to. And the moral, I think, is overdone and a bit obvious. There seems to be some degree of social awareness box-ticking: bullying, learning difficulties, domestic violence, early parenthood, disability/illness, low pay, big corporations, exploitation, eco-politics, war, justice, growing up, morality, responsibility... heartfelt but somehow I wasn't that convinced. Perhaps too many issues?
Bissett does write strongly when he is telling a good yarn. He has a flair for the voice of his characters, and a good eye for appropriate detail. The pace is slow at first but that's no bad thing, as the scene-setting is important. By the middle of the book it is a page-turner. Bissett also uses occasional typography to good effect; "down" repeated over the page like bubbles struck me as neat.
There are real moments of "oh that's good" in this book, moments when the writing shines, but I'm afraid the overall effect was tempered for me by the sentimentality and my lack of really believing in Adam. Some things about him did not ring true, and he seemed sometimes too contrived.
But overall: it is enjoyable, funny, warming and is an interesting step. I'd like to see where Bissett goes next. I think if he irons out the little problems he will become a very good writer.