Panglossian - Golgonooza Review


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genre and market trends

Although submitted as crime fiction, I feel this work can best be described as contemporary fiction and should be marketed as such. Although the submission only gives a flavour of the plot direction, my feeling is that the label "crime" is best avoided. The story has a ‘kafkaesque’ quality that reminds me somewhat of works like "The Tesseract" by Alex Garland and to label it as crime may be limiting in a commercial sense.

Novels such as this which, although contemporary, have an almost gothic feel to them are both popular and marketable. The plot of this story would seem both imaginative and addictive, and likely to appeal. 

Another strength of the novel is the setting of East London, which I am sure would appeal to many readers. One has only to look to the success of "The Long Firm" by Jake Arnott to understand that readers have a fascination with the London criminal underworld. 

similar works and inspirational reading 

The submitted work reminded me very much of "The Cutting Room" by Louise Welsh, a novel that has enjoyed considerable success and received very enthusiastic reviews. It also is a novel, which, although loosely described as crime fiction, has a much broader depth and appeal.

I was also reminded of the work of both Iain Banks and Jeff Noone, not from the contents or the plot but merely by some associated style they may have in common. I was also reminded of Michael Moorcock, whose "Mother London" is for me the definitive novel of alienation in London. 

likelihood to interest a publisher 

I believe the premise and content of the submission to be interesting and of a very high standard, with some reservations which I will detail below.

The plot is imaginative and compelling and I believe the concept of memory loss and the subsequent disorientation that Robin suffers would appeal to and interest most readers. To link that loss of memory into the reality of a past criminal involvement is not new but I can think of no recent novel that has explored this theme.

I loved the hospital scene when Robin awakens to his condition and struggles to come to terms with it. The author has managed to craft a difficult scene with great skill and artistry. It is the starting point of the whole work and it would have been easy to handle it in a trite or hackneyed way. 

The character of Robin convinces in a very strong way and I felt at the end of the submitted passage that I wanted to read more. Perhaps my only disquiet about the character of Robin was the need for a little more flesh to him, to enable the reader to get a clearer visual picture of how he walks and talks. But I have to concede that this may be what the author intends, to create and maintain a shadowy enigmatic Robin whilst the story unfolds.

My major concern over this work highlights the use of dialogue and phrases where I often feel the author uses a style that is too verbose and 'wordy'. Too often the phrases and even the individual words used are too elaborate for the story and would leap out of the page at the reader. Some examples are:
Page 3: "apparently comatose"; "specious satisfaction"; "accosting a suspect".

Page 9: "incurred such injuries".

Page 14: "I had deduced that night";
"the shape near me presented itself".

The use of words such as "countenance" and " fortuitous" likewise jars on the ear and seem incongruous in what is essentially a modern tale. I am not suggesting that the author dumbs down his use of language, merely that in a scene where he uses "countenance", the use of "face" would be so much simpler and cleaner. The use of too complicated words has served to put a strange gloss on the character of Robin and introduces a slightly old fashioned feel to the work.

The hostel scenes are so strong that I am sure readers would want more and embrace the characters that they meet. The author has created a range of characters that are almost too rich for the story, and once again I was eager to read more. His characters are modern and varied in the extreme, and provide an almost Dickensian sweep to the story. The very strangeness of these characters, all of whom are somehow outside normal safe society would fascinate readers.

Despite my reservations above, I am delighted to be able to recommend this submitted work for exhibition. I have doubts that it will find a publisher without considerable revision, but I think it important that it should receive further comment, criticism and observations. I do believe that the author has a novel which, when refined and polished, may well be of interest to the commercial market.

intended / likely readership

Were the work to be published it would appeal to all those who buy and enjoy novels that have both a crime element and invoke a sense of alienation. It would appeal to the type of readers who have made Jake Arnott such a commercial success.

The title of this work "Panglossian" is also a delight and its very novelty, if cleverly marketed, would attract potential readers, a classic example of this being a book such as "The Tesseract". Fiction readers are always intrigued and delighted by literary artifice. 

October 20, 2002