Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Society of Others (AD) / by William Nicholson; read by Glen McReady

In England, an unnamed young man no longer sees the point of anything. Everything is worthless, "all a wash" he muses from his room where he no longer leaves his bed. His mother and father care enough to at least take an interest in their son's issues, supplying him with the necessary funds to get by and leaving him alone for the most part. They do give advice though, not ill-natured but generally unsolicited enought until it finally does become too irritating. In a spur of the moment decision, the choice to get away is immediatley undertaken in unplanned and unpremeditated fashion.

Aimlessly hitchhiking along the road until he's picked up by a trucker heading for the channel tunnel, the protagonist sets off on his journey not knowing (or caring) about his destination. The adventure gets along fine for a little while. But when the truck driver, an odd fellow who peddles his own brand of muddled philosophy to the protagonist, is pulled over in a former eastern bloc country, things suddenly get very strange. The truck is captured and set ablaze by armed guerilla-styled men who capture the protagonist and his driver, confiscate their belongings and actually accuse the protagonist of committing murder. But that's only the beginning as the plot deepens into an ever-widening story of faith, allegiance, conspiracy and complicit dealings.

Author William Nicholson, also the Oscar-winning screenwriter of the blockbuster movie Gladiator, brilliantly pulls off this interesting novel focusing on free will, individual choices and the lives we make for ourselves. With gentle humor, wonderfully wry aplomb and lucid candor, The Society of Others is a bit of an off-the-wall book, very Kafka-esque in its own way positioning individual reason against institutional irrationality and repressive politics. Cynical ramblings by the anonymous protagonist add surprising weight to the novel's dreamlike atmosphere and detached mood, altogether offering up an entertaining story on the importance of human connection and worthwhile relationships. Of course the oral narrative of this, the audiobook, is enhanced by reader Glen McCready who more than manages the narrator's dour, nihilistic complex and lends admirable credibility to the supporting characters. This book is definitely better than OK and firmly satisfactory right up until the end. (AD FIC NICHOLSO)

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