End of the World Blues Paperback – Sep 25 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Straightforward explanations and linear plotting are in short supply in this stand-alone novel; rather, Grimwood's latest tale reads as if Kurt Vonnegut were writing manga for the producers of Doctor Who. The story starts in near-future Tokyo, where expatriate soldier Kit Nouveau runs an Irish bar. A runaway teenage girl, Lady Neku, hides $15 million in a train station locker and then tidily kills a mugger to save Kit's life, and soon both are deeply enmeshed in multi-layered clan wars. Kit's involves a reputed yakuza syndicate, various British police and spy agencies and several of his past and present lovers. Neku's concerns the alternate reality where she's a semi-immortal princess and the incipient bride to the heir of a rival family. The connections between the two are often vague, but Grimwood (Stamping Butterflies) stabilizes the story with uniformly compelling characterizations and vivid settings. Genre fans may find the book difficult to label, but readers with flexible expectations will find it easy to enjoy. (Oct.)
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“Fast yet humane, hip yet bizarre, futuristic yet embedded in the absolute present moment of the world, Jon Courtenay Grimwood’s novels read like thrillers but maintain a kind of caring irony and clarity of political vision which not only make him one of the best of the new U.K. SF writers but suggest new directions for every kind of writing.”—M. John Harrison, author of Light
“Defiantly individual, and works in that interesting margin where myth, futurism, literature and pop culture all interbreed.” —Times, UK
“Grimwood's latest tale reads as if Kurt Vonnegut were writing manga for the producers of Doctor Who.”—Publishers Weekly
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Lady Neku's story is intriguing but very vague and ambiguous, which is clearly an intentional strategy by Grimwood to fire the reader's imagination, but some readers may find her far-future sci-fi homeworld too undeveloped for comfort. Meanwhile, Kit Nouveau's adventures in crime and redemption remain exciting, but Grimwood keeps piling on intricate twists and conspiratorial subplots to the point of distraction, with the story nearly collapsing under its own weight. Granted, the sheer power and uniqueness of Grimwood's imagination, and his skills in plot construction, will keep adventurous readers fascinated. But those with more structured imaginations might have to read this book three or four times to really figure out all the twists and turns, which might just be too showoff-ish for their own good. [~doomsdayer520~]
Basically, I enjoyed thebook, and it was an entertaining and gripping read. That being said, it's kind of like a slightly less satisfying Gibson. The whole snail castle at the end of the world feels like a tangent that should have been either more fully developed, or left out altogether. It's perhaps kind of harsh, and I may well have missed the point a bit, but although that part of Neko's world was intriguing, it doesn't really feel fully worked into the story. In the end, I get it, but I'm not sure it added much. The other main problem is how convoluted the whole plot is. If it all came together and was somehow interrelated, I don't think I'd have a bone to pick, but the fact that so many independent different and strange things happen to Kit strains my credulity. I fully recognize that we read science fiction or punk (I hesitate to call this cyberpunk, since the fact that it's set in the future doesn't really change much about the story - it could have been set in 1985 and been just as believable) to see extraordinary things happen. I think, though, that we want those extraordinary things to have their own internal logic, to have something about the situation demand that the events transpire as they do. I really don't get that feeling from End of the World Blues, and that's its biggest weakness.
Many groups are after Neku because of the money she hid; this includes the yakuza syndicate and, British espionage agents; Several of Kit's former lovers and a few he still sees are after him. Neku also "lives" in an alternate reality as a princess married to an adversarial family. She fears her virtual life has interacted with her real life while Kit feeling an obsession to save a former girlfriend who left a suicide note behind wonders what he has gotten into since Neku saved him from a mugging.
The END OF THE WORLD BLUES is a complex somewhat convoluted character driven thriller that hooks readers who prefer something different yet compelling. Kit with his world ended yesterday philosophy and Neku with her strange kick butt attitude make for a dynamic read as her adventures tie into his past, present, and apparently his future making the double helix look like preschool science. Jon Courtenay Grimwood is at his most complicated best with this strong tale.
Let me get the verdict out of the way - I enjoyed reading the book and would recommend it to anyone.
I found the book a bit unsettling because of the dreamlike setting. By dreamlike I am obviously not talking about the story being partly based in a world very different from our own and involving a greater than usual suspension of disbelief. There is a certain lack of clear definitions and amorphous-ness in the characters and the plot, especially Lady Neku. I felt myself just moving with the flow of the story, hoping that things would become clear ultimately. It's been sometime since I have picked up a Murakami, but I suspect it is the same kind of feeling.
The story revolves around Kit Nouveau with Lady Neku playing a supporting role. I wish it were the other way around - perhaps because then the plot would have been more fantasy/sf than whodunit.
A large part of the book is based in Japan and reading it reawakened my secret fascination with contemporary Japanese culture. I have to find out if all this is just a media construct or if things really are as wierd over there!