four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
28-May-June-2007
By: 
Tom McCarthy
user_rating: 
0

A-RemainderWhen a chunk of something falls from the sky and hits an unnamed narrator, the London protagonist—after waking from a coma—receives a settlement of £8.5 million. The trouble is, he can’t remember a thing; nor does he know how to spend all that money. After a visionary moment at a friend’s party, he decides to use his new-found wealth to recreate his past life and achieve authenticity. He hires builders to reconstruct his old building, actors to play as neighbors, and more. At first, he achieves a semblance of reality, but as he becomes more obsessed with rebuilding the world he once knew, a terrible, artificial reality emerges.
Vintage. 312 pages. $13.95. ISBN: 0307278352

Cleveland Plain Dealer 4 of 5 Stars
"In a very subtle way, McCarthy is saying something about our attitude toward pleasure. Fleeting moments no longer count; we require the best all the time. Then we discover the pursuit of this goal turns fetishistic." John Freeman

Toronto Star 4.5 of 5 Stars
"What McCarthy is interested in, both with the INS [see Critical Summary below] and in Remainder, is showing how social constructions dictate human reality. … As cold and conceptual as all this sounds, the remarkable thing about Remainder, the best and most exciting novel I read in 2006, is the depth of feeling McCarthy reaches in conveying this strange, comical story." Shaun Smith

Los Angeles Times 4 of 5 Stars
"The result is a dizzying existential free-fall that calls into question the very nature of identity. … Remainder isn’t a mystery novel—there’s no villain here apart from time and space—so if its core ripples with ambiguity, all the better for the reader, as this is a book to be read and then reread, rich as it is with its insights, daring as it is with its contradictions." Tod Goldberg

NY Times Book Review 4 of 5 Stars
"McCarthy’s superb stylistic control and uncanny imagination transport this novel beyond the borders of science fiction. His bleak humor, hauntingly affectless narrator and methodical expansion on his theme make Remainder more than an entertaining brain-teaser: it’s a work of novelistic philosophy, as disturbing as it is funny." Liesl Schillinger

Vancouver Sun 4 of 5 Stars
"Remainder is really a parable, a compelling personal descent into hell, structured and told with great originality. … [It] feels like ever-shifting ground, its protagonist like ever-deadening life, and these destabilizing elements form a large part of its allure." Kirk LaPointe

Oakland Tribune 3.5 of 5 Stars
"McCarthy’s book has been compared to the movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and David Mitchell’s Ghostwritten. It’s different and compelling, and definitely worth discussing." Lynn Carey

Critical Summary

Rejected in England before it was acquired by a small French publishing house, Tom McCarthy’s debut novel is now a popular and critical success. The author, who in 1999 launched the semihoax International Necronautical Society (INS)—designed to map and colonize the space of death—transfers some of the Society’s philosophical concerns to his novel. About human reality, social constructions, and the quest for identity, Remainder offers a highly original and insightful allegory of our times. In a clear, deadpan tone, the narrator, "an existential Everyman" (Los Angeles Times), tells a bizarre, disorienting, and compelling story. The vagueness may bother some readers, but most will enjoy pondering the ambiguity of it all.