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The Coma [Paperback]

Alex Garland
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
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Book Description

July 5 2005

When Carl awakens from a coma after being attacked on a subway train, life around him feels unfamiliar, even strange. He arrives at his best friend's house without remembering how he got there; he seems to be having an affair with his secretary, which is pleasant but surprising. He starts to notice distortions in his experience, strange leaps in his perception of time. Is he truly reacting with the outside world, he wonders, or might he be terribly mistaken? So begins a dark psychological drama that raises questions about the the human psyche, dream versus reality, and the boundaries of consciousness. As Carl grapples with his predicament, Alex Garland - author of The Beach and the screenplay for 28 Days Later, plays with conventions and questions our assumptions about the way we exist in the world, even as it draws us into the unsettling and haunting book about a lost suitcase and a forgotten identity.


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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

In the latest novel by the bestselling author of the Generation X thriller The Beach, a young man who fell into a coma after being assaulted on the London Underground tries to piece his life back together. Shuttling in dreamlike fashion between his hospital bed and a hazy succession of places—his apartment, friends' houses, a record shop, a bookshop, his childhood home, a shrine—he sifts through conflicting memories of his past and unanswerable questions about his present. The novel reaches for Kafkaesque ambiguity—is the narrator awake or in a dream? did he ever come out of the coma? is there a difference between ourselves and our fantasies?—but Garland's parable feels more like an exercise than a true exploration, constricted by its sluggish pace and plodding prose ("I stood. I raised a hand. I said, 'Hey' "). Forty woodblock illustrations by the author's father, Sir Nicholas Garland, a political cartoonist and artist, are handsome but function as little more than filler. By the end of the story, with the narrator unable to tell the difference between reality and fantasy, he finally decides, "None of it was real. I didn't care." Chances are good the reader will feel the same way.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Slight but entertaining, this Mobius strip of a novel should fuel the cult following that Garland cultivated among twentysomethings with The Beach (1996) and the screenplay for 28 Days Later, which imagined an England overrun by zombies. Like that film, this book follows a man who awakens from a coma inside a London hospital. But in this case, the dawning horrors he faces might all be inside his head. What we know, or think we know, is that the man's name is Carl. One night, on the last train home, he stands to intervene when a gang of young toughs accosts a fellow passenger. The next thing Carl knows, he is in the hospital trying to swim back to consciousness. From there, the spare, sly story takes several Kafkaesque turns, its foreboding mood heightened by the woodblock illustrations of Garland's father. We watch, admiring, as Carl dopes out his states of consciousness and logically navigates a course back toward normal. But just when the facts start coming into focus, the view blurs up again, and we cannot help but smile. Frank Sennett
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Until the telephone rang, the only sound in my office was the scratching of my pen as I made margin notes, corrections, and amendments. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A Mad Trip Through (Un)Consciousness June 27 2004
Format:Hardcover
It had been a while since Alex Garland had published a novel. After The Beach and The Tesseract, Garland worked on the amazing horror flick 28 Days Later. The Coma, a short novella that is, like everything else Garland has written, not easily classifiable. This ends up being the novel's forte and also its biggest flaw.
While trying to help a woman who is being attacked on a subway, Carl is beaten to a bloody pulp and left for dead. A long while later, he wakes up from the coma the attack left him in and returns home. But he soon realizes that nothing is as it used to be. Things have changed, things are wrong, things are just unexplainable. Time seems to be moving faster, Carl finds himself moving from one place to another without remembering having done so. And how about those invisible bleeding wounds on his body?
Garland weaves his narrative just like a dream. One second we're standing in one place, the next we're in a total different setting. Things are disjointed and they don't always make sense for the reader. Until, that is, something crucial is revealed to us that changes the way we see or understand the events taking place in the narrative.
Told in the first person over very short chapters, with interesting visual images to guide us through the story, The Coma is a story that is both imaginary and frighteningly real. As always, Garland lets his imagination run wild to create a one-of-a-kind trip to the human psyche.
Then again, the book left me craving for more. I wanted more out of Carl, wanted to learn more from the characters and the situations they were in. Over the course of two very short chapters, Garland tells us a bit about Carl's childhood, but not enough to eradicate my curiosity. Some sections could have been fleshed out a bit more.
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By r_duke
Format:Hardcover
From my weird title you probably get the feel of what it is to read this book...maybe.
Alex Garland wrote one of my favourite books of all time: The Beach. While The Beach was a pretty big success (if you've seen the movie you haven't really experienced The Beach, they're very different from one another) his second book wasn't as big but was equally entertaining and different. With the release of 28 Days Later Garland delved into some interesting territory already explored by other filmmakers but with Danny Boyle they created something incredibly exciting and new in the genre. This introduction now brings me to my thoughts on Garland's third novel (more of a novella than an actual book) and fourth writing project. I liked the fact that this was a tightly written and eloquently short read but I was slightly dismayed at the predictability of the proceedings (some surprises but in general I felt I had read it before). The language that Garland uses is crisp and creates a totally visual experience. Although his father included several interesting woodcarvings to accompany each chapter they seem a little excessive and unnecessary since the language is so clear. This is foremost a writer's experiment and it is the most different, in terms of 'defined story', of his four previous works. While I found the book creepy at first it began to take on a comedic tone and is so short that I was able to finish it in little more than an hour and some (give or take, I don't use a stopwatch). I found this book to be interesting and a worthwhile investment since many of the thoughts, ideas, and descriptions stay with you long after you put the book down. For fans of Garland's work this is a must have for your collection to see where Garland is moving as an artist but for casual readers it may just be a fun little ride (this review is based on a first reading only and the novella needs to be read a second time).
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3.0 out of 5 stars Pass on this one Oct. 17 2007
Format:Hardcover
I picked up this book because it was written by Alex Garland and after enjoying The Beach and The Tesseract I had high hopes for this story. Unfortunately for me, I should have kept my hopes low.

Without giving too much away, as you might deduce from the title of the book, the story focuses on a coma patient and all the thoughts and ideas that come with being in a coma. I’m not sure what I was expecting to be honest with you, but whatever it was, this wasn’t it.

What I wanted was more of a story. What I got was more of an unofficial biography of the person lying in the coma. Which I suppose is what Garland was aiming for when he wrote the book. Trouble is, I was expecting a story. Only I didn’t get one.

So is it fair for me to dislike this book when really, it is my expectations that are out of whack with what the story actually delivered? No, probably not. But then again, life isn’t fair. Sorry Alex. Better luck next time.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing, nightmarish and brilliant July 15 2004
Format:Hardcover
It would be a real shame if the inept movie version of "The Beach" were to keep anyone from picking up Alex Garland's latest. "The Coma" is a real masterpiece, and like "The Tesseract" goes far beyond the budding promise of "The Beach" to show a genuine talent at work. "Coma" seems to be a straightforward tale of a man's recovery from a severe beating, but from the first eerily flat descriptions of violence through dreamscape after dreamscape, the reader is brought to increasingly disturbing place. The woodcuts add brilliantly to the atmosphere, at their most effective at their simplest: slashes of white or shadows with no faces. Garland's ability to put the reader inside another's conciousness is reminiscent of masters like Dostoevsky. Please, purge your mind of the vision of Leo DiCaprio in warpaint and get this book.
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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars My First, and Probably Last, Garland Book
Bad. His writing style is very plain and boring, and the novel has literally NO substance. Don't waste your time on this. I'm glad that I only paid 1.50 or something for this. Read more
Published on Dec 14 2007 by Benjamin Anderson
2.0 out of 5 stars Great... and then it ends... poorly.
Okay, its short - but so are many great works of literature. Garland writes so well, his atmospheric prose and original imagery really helped to hook me and he admirably wove and... Read more
Published on July 24 2006 by CraigAS
2.0 out of 5 stars Why so short
I can't argue that the story was not gripping, but I read it in an hour............
Ater such a long wait since The Tesseract I expected more.
Published on July 7 2005 by James Briggs
2.0 out of 5 stars Ponderous
I was a big fan of Mr. Garland's debut novel "The Beach," less so of "The Tesseract," and while I was entertained by his latest effort, I can't say it compares... Read more
Published on July 7 2004 by J. F Malysiak
2.0 out of 5 stars Let's go back to "The Beach"
I picked up a copy of Alex Garland's "The Coma" hoping for the same fast-paced storytelling that grabbed me in his first novel, "The Beach" with its successive uncertainty and... Read more
Published on June 23 2004 by K. Lin
2.0 out of 5 stars Let's go back to "The Beach"
I picked up a copy of Alex Garland's "The Coma" hoping for the same fast-paced storytelling that grabbed me in his first novel, "The Beach" with its successive uncertainty and... Read more
Published on June 23 2004 by K. Lin
5.0 out of 5 stars "Coma" Will Keep You Alert
If you ever get mad at yourself for not being able to remember your dreams, you will definitly relate to this book. Read more
Published on June 22 2004 by Taylor G.
5.0 out of 5 stars A wait most worth it
This is a wonderful, readable short novel. I won't give plot summation (you can scroll up for that), but suffice to say that this is, even though a quick read, a thoroughly... Read more
Published on June 18 2004
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