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The Tesseract [Paperback]

Alex Garland
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (135 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Jan. 11 2002

An intricately woven, suspenseful novel of psychological and political intrigue, The Tesseract follows the interlocking fates of three sets of characters in the Philippines: gangsters in a chase through the streets of Manila; a middle-class mother putting her children to bed in the suburbs and remembering her first love; and a couple of street kids and the wealthy psychiatrist who is studying their dreams. Alex Garland demonstrates the range of his extraordinary talents as a novelist in this national bestseller, a Chinese puzzle of a novel about three intersecting sets of characters in the Philippines.

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From Amazon

In The Tesseract, set in muggy, scary Manila, Alex Garland again proves himself the past master of the youth paranoia novel. His first novel, The Beach--a tale of Western tourists on a druggy Thai isle--was dubbed a Gen-X Lord of the Flies. It made him Britain's richest 28-year-old writer even before Leonardo DiCaprio starred in the movie version. Now Garland ups the literary ante with an intricate three-part crime-story structure that several critics have compared to Pulp Fiction (only without the jokes). It's hard-boiled yet lyrical, subtle yet simple. Garland has three sets of characters collide, as if in a devilishly devised model-train wreck involving real trains, and his Manila is more grittily realistic than his Thailand. The first protagonist is Sean, an English seafaring lad who's about to meet the gangster Don Pepe, who's upset because Sean's boss recently missed a protection payment. It's not just the tarmac-melting heat that accounts for Sean's sweaty state of mind. As Don Pepe's posse's footsteps get louder outside his room, Sean glimpses his face in the mirror "in a state of flux. Unable to resolve itself, like a cheap hologram or a bucket of snakes, the lips curled while the jaw relaxed.... Fear, Sean thought distantly. Rare that one got to see what it actually looked like." Garland's great gift is conveying such mental states with the economy and grace of a Muhammad Ali punch. One feels that Don Pepe is about to reach up from the book and do violence to the reader.

Next comes the entire, tensely compressed life story of Rosa, a rural beach beauty turned big-city physician. Rosa is tormented by memories of her first love at 16, a man who comes crashing back into her life. In the last section, Sean and Don Pepe's thugs literally crash into her life, along with the book's third star duo, tough street kids Cente and Totoy. The Tesseract's vivid images and breakneck chases make it unsurprising to learn that Garland started out as a comic-book author, though his second novel really bears comparison with Robert Stone's Dog Soldiers. --Tim Appelo --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

The tesseract of Garland's title refers to the reduction of a four-dimensional cube to a three-dimensional one: "We can see the thing unraveled, but not the thing itself." In an attempt at similar dimensionality, Garland (The Beach) has written a novel that operates on two levels. His characters intersect in a metaphysical web and also in a violent series of coincidences. A sailor named Sean waits to rendezvous with a crime boss named Don Pepe in a seedy hotel in Manila. Sean kills Don Pepe in ambush, but the dead man's henchmen chase Sean through the streets of Manila. This is action-movie stuff, but the story soon moves through a whole new cast of characters. Sean runs past two street boys and ends up cornered in a family's home in an upper-class neighborhood. Garland now takes up these secondary characters and tells their stories, deconstructing the exoticism of his premise. We read of a woman named Rosa's romantic history and her father's death; and we learn of the street waifs' desperate lives. The boys sell their dreams to a psychologist named Alfredo, who is writing a thesis about the unconscious lives of Filipino street kids. Although Garland's allusions to super-symmetry and tesseracts are far-fetched, the reader will come away impressed by his sense of place and his unique storytelling, which combines a brisk, complex plot with an ability to get into the souls and skins of people. BOMC and QPB alternate; author tour. (Feb.) FYI: Leonardo DiCaprio will star in the movie version of The Beach.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
I've been obsessed with the movie The Beach. Every time I watch it, it climbs my favorite movie ladder(which it is now in the top 10). So I decided to (gasp) read the book The Beach to see what all was different from the movie. Sadly my library only had The Tesseract by Alex Garland, so no Beach for me. While I don't read many books, The Tesseract held my attention and was a fun read.
The book is simply brilliant, as others have said. This is what I got out of the book: It tackles the issue of time or the 4th dimension something that we as 3 dimensional beings can never really see happening nor control. Whether it be someone who has gotten themself into a bad situation, someone who has loved, or someone who has forgotten the past, time is what none of these people could predict. Much like they could not predict how they would end up spending time together themselves.
What we end up with is a group of 3-dimensional people who are haunted by time. And by doing so only look at the next step up, the 4th dimension, but never understanding it as a whole. And with this comes a sense of godlessness that if humans are struggling to comprehend what's behind time, how could they ever comprehend god or some higher dimension in life or the hereafter?
The end result is a group of people who at most can only comprehend their view of actions that take place, who never have the full story, who can only make their daily lives less complex but never more. A book through 3 different stories that shows the limits of humanity. Everyone should read The Tesseract.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Terse Act Aug. 15 2003
"The Tesseract" provides a beautiful description of a series of ugly circumstances. Here we have life and death; disfigurement; cruelty; jealousy and sadness; coincidence and bad luck. We also have love and loyalty and beauty. Pretty much the whole gamut of human experience.
For anyone who's read Donna Tartt, I have to say that "The Tesseract" is to "The Beach" as Tartt's "The Little Friend" is to "The Secret History". In each case, we have a compelling and exciting first novel (complete with totally obsessed fans), followed by a more mature and exquisitly crafted novel that inevitably draws howls of complaint from said fans, who seem to feel betrayed because the second offering isn't a clone of the first.
Authors like Garland and Tartt remind me of the stunning power of language, and that imagination is alive and well in the world. I for one am grateful that they were both brave enough to disappoint many of their fans by trying something different.
"The Tesseract" strikes me as being fairly short on adjectives. Garland _shows_ us interactions between his characters, and leaves his readers to interpret their meanings.
I found this novel beautiful and haunting. And if Garland's tender depiction of a pair of roguish street kids doesn't move you ... well then, maybe you need to stick with "The Beach"!
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4.0 out of 5 stars professional writing July 29 2003
a very clean piece of writing. The Tesseract is really three (long) short stories connected by location and certain events which characters from each of the stories participate in. in accordance with Martin Amis's prediction that good fiction will embrace science, the speed of light makes an appearance in the last story, as does the tesseract, at which point it becomes clear that Garland's interest in science has a faintly mystical edge to it. i had the sense that the tesseract was intended to explain, at a deeper level, how the stories were connected, but was unsure how it did so. thus, if the three stories, when read together, were supposed to reveal a fourth story, or a supervenient meaning, that story/meaning didn't seem clear to me. Garland is a sensitive portrayer of character and an unobtrusive presence in his work. as far as his prose style is concerned, he packs a fair punch without giving the impression of overexerting himself. overall, this was an absorbing, well-crafted novel, and though i didn't feel the author wrote with sufficient intensity to make the book really demand to be read, it was still a great pleasure to read.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant... Dec 17 2002
I wasn't sure what to expect after reading Alex Garland's incredible debut, The Beach. I was hoping for similar excitement and fast-paced adventure. Well, I definitely got that in spades! The Tesseract is so much more realistic and dramatic, and I was feverishly turning pages to find out how this tesseract would unravel.
Told in four parts, The Tesseract begins with Sean, a sailor on the shipping waters of Manila, waiting in a seedy, run-down motel for the gangster, Don Pepe, and his motley crew. Then the story switches gears entirely and begins the tale of Rosa, a woman who remembers her first love, Lito, through flashbacks. This part of the story is told gently and almost romantically. The next story follows two Filipino street kids, Vincente and Totoy, as they wander the streets of Manila in search of hand-outs and a little excitement. Finally, the fourth part, a gritty and fantastic conclusion, has all three stories violently entwined.
I'm positive this novel was no easy feat to write; however, Alex Garland has done it flawlessly. The stories within this novel are powerful and dramatic, some violent, one wistful and romantic, and all are stunning and solid. A perfect novel to pick apart and invoke energetic discussions. Some things might go over novice readers' heads (when one of the characters, Alfredo, waxes philosophic), but for the most part it is easily understood. A highly recommended novel about how your destiny can be shaped by strangers, and how forces beyond your control can come crashing into your life in a moment's notice. Brilliant.
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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars A disappointment, to say the least
The book starts off with suspense and promise. However, this suspense and promise fades quickly when Garland starts to shift the focus of the book to different story lines,... Read more
Published on Aug. 12 2010 by A Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Liked 28 Days Later? You'll like this too.
Alien landscapes that seem all too familiar, person devastation, and random violent acts. Those are the stock-in-trade ingredients of Alex Garland in this novel and in his... Read more
Published on July 17 2004 by Randall Neustaedter
5.0 out of 5 stars 4 dimensional - incredible
This book will inspire the unthinking to think and the unfeeling to feel. An amazingly deep story - tied together in ways you cant even imagine in 3-d.
Published on Dec 25 2003
1.0 out of 5 stars This book was a disappointment
I liked the movie "The Beach," but reading "The Tesseract" made me not want to finish the book ("The Beach"). Read more
Published on Dec 13 2003 by James A Bretney
1.0 out of 5 stars EASY to put down, NOT spellingbinding like The Beach
I loved The Beach, Alex Garland's first book. The movie was ok ,however it is the writer's voice in this book that is so unique. Read more
Published on Sept. 24 2003 by Ms Book
4.0 out of 5 stars A study in writing technique.
I found it gripping all the way through, story telling for its
own sake, a study in how to grab and hold the readers attention. Read more
Published on Jan. 17 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars It's No "Beach," But It'll Do Just Fine
While I personally prefer Garlands first novel "The Beach," "The Tesseract" is certainly an excellent book as well. Read more
Published on Dec 15 2002 by K. A D. Veer
4.0 out of 5 stars an unexpected yet thoroughly engaging story...
The Tesseract starts off so much like The Beach (Alex Garland's first novel). The setting is a slimey hotel in the tropics (Manila), and we have a man caught up in some rather... Read more
Published on Oct. 13 2002 by lazza
4.0 out of 5 stars Garland's Second Effort...
Garland's second effort as a professional author is actually quite good. His first book being the award-winning The Beach - he did have a tough act to follow. Read more
Published on July 21 2002 by Joe
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