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WARNING, WHOPPING SPOILERS AHEAD. I write these pages as notes, records and reminders to myself of books I have read. You are welcome to peruse these reviews, but be warned that they will spoil your reading pleasure if you have not already read them.
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Maul   by Tricia Sullivan

Read: 2004-07-20 Reviewed: 2004-07-24
Re-read factor:

Up to the halfway line I thought I was getting the gist of this book. A man (in a world where most men have died out due to a plague) is held in captivity where he is being used to farm some bugs, and while there he plays a game called mall in which he influences a shopping mall (called a maul). The action plays according to his mood, which swings according to whether his brutal cell-mate is kicking him about, or his captors are undulging in crude sexual exercises as they try to get him to give them some sperm. Inside the maul gangs of gun-laden girls are causing havoc.

The book is a send-up of crass commercialism and ghetto upbringings, and so Tricia frequently interrupts her ability to write fluid prose (of which she is clearly capable) with broken english and crude profanities. It seems that by sending up the low tones of today's world, the book is pulling itself way down with them.

The opening of the second half is where the structure of the aforementioned story unfolds, and promises something special. However, the story falls into little pieces. It turns out that the laboratory experiment was a scam laid on by some multinational company. The company elite are trying to get the men for themselves, the laboratory attendants try to take the specimens for themselves, and the two captives have a plan to escape (well, one does, the other follows). As the story around the laboratory twists and turns, so does the story in the maul, except that it becomes totally disjointed.

The action comes to a head inside one of those unbelieveably big buildings that sci-fi writers always think they have to invent. There is a tournament going on, and the two men sabotage it. They cause mayhem and eventually get away. Meanwhile, because the mall is no longer being played, the maul just returns to normality, and two of the girls decide to just walk out, which they would except that a motorbike presents itself to them, and they ride out basically scott-free.

On the back cover, one of the positive reviews given the book says that it is `just possibly quite, quite brilliant,' and that is true, except that it quite probably isn't. It's a book which I feel I love and loathe at the same time. It is crude and refined. It is well written but deliberately badly so. It irritates you in the same way that crass commercialism does (and no aspect of the book irritates me more than seeing the title on the spine written the wrong way up), which makes the book a success. It's not predictable, but having read it the ideas are not mind-blowing. It's broken.

In summary this book is the average of two extremes - average. It won't stop me reading more of Tricia's work, though.



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