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on 19 April 2009
Eleanor Merritt is an American do-gooder, a family planning worker working in Kenya.
Despite noticing that the Kenyan women continue visiting the clinics for perinatal care and continue having children notwithstanding the difficulty feeding them Eleanor continues doggedly her work pushing for the use of contraceptives at the family planning clinics.
Calvin Piper, "I don't like human beings", is obsessed with population.
Calvin who due to his very strong and unorthodox views has been fired from USAID, believes in culling elephants to curb their population and protect their habitat, spends his time studying demographics and searching for a way to curb population growth.

Two very different people who have differing views on how the world's growing population in the 1990's should be dealt with. Despite temperamental and opposing characters they are not only drawn to each other but cannot seem to live without the other.
The book is well researched and there are quite a lot of facts of epidemiology and demography.
I was not particularly keen on the characters (so well potrayed that, to be honest, I hated them both) and I found this to be the book that I liked least from Lionel Shriver.
If you have not read other books by LS stay away and start elsewhere, either at Kevin or Post Birthday World.
If you have read the other books by LS be prepared for reading facts on demography and some controversial characters and ideas. LS has been brave in having her characters voice their not politically correct thoughts.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 9 November 2014
Lionel Shriver is never afraid to cover controversial issues in her books - in this one, she tackles the thorny subject of human overpopulation. Her main character is an altruistic aid-worker who has spent the last twenty years handing out contraception in East Africa, who becomes involved with a maverick former colleague who has a rather more drastic solution in mind to tackle the rising population.

It's an 'intellectual' kind of book with plenty of complex debates between the characters. It's not 'hard to read' as such, but it's not an 'easy read' either - it requires a certain level of concentration and so is better to read in a quiet place. Not a good book for public transport or casual holiday reading. Shriver is an author who never uses a one-syllable word if an obscure multi-syllable one exists. But she is a good writer and she tells a good story, managing to make an exciting plot out of what could be a very dry subject.

The two main characters are fascinating and complex, in their very different ways. The maverick Calvin is particularly interesting and well written, Shriver manages to put across his charisma. You can understand how he has managed to gain followers despite the controversy of his views. Meanwhile the do-gooding Eleanor is a character many women in particular will recognise some similarities with. Her meek and mild exterior hides a tough edge and I liked the way she developed throughout the story.

I did find the subplot in which the ghost of Calvin's former girlfriend haunts him a bit odd and unnecessary. I wasn't sure if it we were supposed to take it literally, or to assume the main characters were imagining it. I'm not sure it really added anything to the story. There are some aspects of the rest of the story that are far-fetched, although as the whole thing has a satirical edge which allows more of suspension of disbelief.

If you enjoy original, challenging books with an intellectual edge, this will be a rewarding read. For anyone interested in the politics of aid, in population, philosophy, or Africa, there is plenty here to think about. Although it isn't an easy read as such, the quality of the plot, characters and originality make it a worthwhile investment of time and mental effort.
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on 2 May 2013
Lionel Shriver is very good at saying the unsayable and Calvin Piper is the perfect mouthpiece. It is a story of of clashing ideals - save the world or kill the world, with Africa's poverty and post colonial legacy of ineffective government as a backdrop. Calvin Piper proposes significant population control (creating a pandemic to cull the very young & the old) and initially spars (before starting a flawed relationship ) with earnest birth control project worker Eleanor Merritt. Shriver puts some serious, thought-provoking, hopefully tongue-in-cheek, arguments about how best to deal with the problem of scare resources and a fragile earth. My favourite character was Calvin's terrifying ex she seemed (oddly) more real than Calvin & Eleanor who both had slightly cardboard'y qualities. The book runs out of steam about 75% of the way through but it is funny, horrifying & thought provoking and well worth a read.
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on 5 March 2014
Absolutely brilliant ... Sharp no nonsense inside into human nature as is - taking away all artificial niceness into which we all like to wrap ourselves . If you want to keep pink glasses on please do not read this book . If you can bear brutal reality and still keep laughing go it .
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on 31 December 2013
While I thoroughly enjoyed this book,
And found the ending unexpected and hilarious, I found many of the sentences somewhat convoluted and unnecessarily complicated for someone of a less literary mind ( is that correct?) But a good read
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on 30 July 2011
the characters are captivating and moving. What I like most about this book is mixing in of credible science in a style that has nothing to do with science fiction. It is a bit crazy, and fascinating, to see the author bring to life the complexity of populations control, the strange world of people who try to help Africa, into a novel.
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on 23 August 2013
What I found most interesting about this book were the wildly politically incorrect opinions voiced by Calvin. Is this the reason it went out of print? Population growth is clearly a thorny issue and the conflicting standpoints were extremely well depicted - I was also fascinated to see that Dan Brown has picked up on the theme in his latest novel, Inferno. In my view, he does it rather less well than Lionel Shriver.
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Game Control is the fifth novel by American author, Lionel Shriver. This novel is set in Kenya in the early 1990s and concerns demographics and AIDs. The main characters are a vengeful misanthrope, Calvin Piper, and a guilty do-gooder, Eleanor Merritt. Eleanor works for a Family Planning agency and encounters the charismatic Piper at various Aid conferences. Despite his provocative and controversial opinions about population control (eg allow infant mortality to increase by stopping vaccination), Eleanor falls in love with Piper. But Piper declares himself incapable of love since the death of his black African mercenary girlfriend, Panga (who haunts his cottage still, offering commentary and opinion). In his genial despair, Piper's sparring partner on population matters is the morbidly euphoric Wallace Threadgill, a continuing source of optimistic clippings from papers and magazines. When Eleanor accidentally stumbles on Piper's solution to the population explosion, her love for Piper is tested against her commitment to humanity. In this blackly comic offering, Shriver deftly presents two sides of the population control debate, while illustrating the power of statistics. Shriver's extensive research is apparent in every paragraph. Brilliant.
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on 9 July 2014
I like the lack of P. C. here
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on 11 May 2011
I liked all the other books by Lionel Shriver, like Double-fault, We need to talk about Kevin, A perfectly good family and The post-birthday world. But this one... I was so bored with it I stopped, and apparently, I didn't miss much. Read her other books, they're fantastic!
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