Friday, 3 June 2011

Old School

Since it’s retro week, I decided to do something that none of us has (hopefully) seen since grade school: a book review. Remember how we had to do them all the time when we were kids (to prove we’d read the book, more than actually understood it)? It was torture then, but I kind of miss the simplicity of a book report. In University we’re expected to examine the themes and motifs and over-arching symbolism, and all that can get a little tedious. I also figured that a book review would nicely complement my Tuesday rant about how people don’t read anymore. So here goes, a book review! Maybe after reading it, you might actually go out and pick up the book? I know Nicole is reading it at the moment as well, and I kind of made Mel join our book group by giving her a copy of it for her birthday, so maybe the rest of you should follow suit and join us in reading The Dark Fields by Alan Glynn. For those of you who aren’t in the know, The Dark Fields is what the film Limitless is based on. (BTW this review is actually from my book journal, and isn’t exclusively for this blog).

Like MDT-48 (the designer drug that protagonist Eddie Spinola becomes dependant upon), this novel is highly addictive. I picked it up around 8pm after a long day at work, and I had a hard time putting it down and going to sleep . I devoured approximately 100 pages in the first sitting, which is far more than I usually have patience with these days. I then had to ration myself, so the wonderful effects of the book wouldn’t end too soon, but it still only took me 3 days to read. Glynn’s prose flows in a way that you don’t see much from writers these days, and makes one lose track of time when reading.

Having already seen the film adaptation, Limitless, I knew what was coming in terms of plot twists (the screenwriters stuck pretty close to Glynn’s storyline), but I was still drawn into the story, and captivated by Eddie’s strange, but endearing personality. His dramatic change once he begins taking MDT-48 is one which I found intriguing, even the second time around, and actually more so. Being privy to Eddie’s fears, his hopes, and most importantly his surprise and disgust at the changes he sees happening to himself. In the film Eddie seems happy that he basically becomes a new person, but in the novel we see his distrust of his new personality manifest every time he thinks about how strange he feels wearing suits and not physically recognizing the person that he sees in the mirror. It’s clear in both film and novel that Eddie does become a new person, with only remnants of his former self left, but in the novel his confusion about how exactly this happened is much more apparent, and his self-criticism shows that he isn’t sure he likes this new personality.

The use of drugs to drastically change a person’s life as a theme has been dealt with in other books, but these previous examples usually focus on the negative aspects of the change. These books use examples of drugs that are available in real life (such as cocaine, heroin, and pot), and have very real negative repercussions on the user’s life, but Glynn’s choice of a drug with mostly positive effects (increased mental stimulation, as long as one keeps using) gives the genre a new spin: the benefits of MDT-48 outweigh the repercussions, because as long as the dosage is monitored and continued the consequences don’t exist. Of course, we don’t get to see what happens after prolonged exposure to MDT-48, but the only people who are effected negatively are those who stop taking it.

I’m not going to talk about how Eddie’s story ends, because that would be a spoiler for those of you who are reading it currently, and for those of you who are going to go and read it as soon as you’ve read this review :p So don’t hate me for stopping there, because I could definitely go on and on about this novel. If I was in a literature class currently, chances are I would write an actual paper on this novel. In fact, I might just do that anyways, and see if I can get it published in some literary journal or other!

In other book related news: I finished reading The Odyssey this week (after like 6 months…), and I’m now working my way through Solzenitsyn’s The First Circle (more political prisoners and philosophy yay) and Will by Christopher Rush (a research-based fictional re-telling of Shakespeare on his deathbed).


  1. man, people totally don't read anymore. co-workers are always saying to me "How can your read so much? I've read, like, two books in the last five years!" to which I reply "I've read, like, twelve books in the last two months."

    In fact, just today I purchased 5 new books.
    American Gods - Neil Gaiman (I would kiss that man on the mouth)
    Tarzan of the Apes - Edgar Rice Burroughs
    Casino Royale - Ian Flemming
    Dr. Who and the Brain of Morbius - Terrance Dicks
    aaaaaaaaand... The Devil Wears Prada... I like the movie....

  2. good for you stu for buying so many books at once! american gods is heavan in paper form, and i can't WAIT for the author's preferred edition, which is out pretty soon (like this month if i'm not mistaken). the devil wears prada was a cute book, but i have to say the film was better. you need to be able to SEE the gorgeous shoes and clothes, or it just isn't as fabulous!