Piñol's new novel offers a sumptuous genre feast: part jungle adventure à la Haggard, part science fiction à la Wells, part anti-imperialist critique à la Conrad, and part genre-fetish à la the Hard Case Crime series…The result is a deliciously well-imagined book, and a zany pleasure.
The New York Times
Piñol's second novel (after Cold Skin) is a fanciful metafiction that lampoons adventure stories while telling one with great enthusiasm. Nineteen-year-old orphan Tommy Thomson, a ghost writer struggling to make a living in WWI London, is hired to record the account of a man on trial for murdering two sons of a duke on an expedition in the Congo. The tale that unfolds draws from Stanley, Conrad and Verne, and borrows names from historical figures, often with irony (the man on trial, for instance, is named Marcus Garvey). Tommy spends four years writing and rewriting Marcus's tale in which the doomed brothers and their enslaved African porters turned miners encounter a subterranean race reminiscent of Verne's Morlocks. (Marcus calls them Tectons and portrays them as a barbarous threat to above-ground civilization.) Piñol has layers of commentary at work, touching on perception, the nature of literature, the need for heroes and the faults of hubris. It's a smart book, and Piñol poses piercing questions; the adventure yarn that ties it all together is great entertainment. (Mar.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Sánchez Piñol follows up his impressive first novel, Cold Skin, with another feat of literary fabulism that far exceeds his debut in imagination and scope. A summary of the premise would require at least twice this review's word count. It involves a team of ghostwriters for a series of pulp African adventure stories; a disastrous mining expedition to the Congo whose sole survivor is Marcus Garvey (not the Rastafarian prophet); a mysterious white-skinned, underground-dwelling African tribe; the German bombing raids of England in World War I; and a fierce, shell-less turtle named Marie Antoinette. The various plot points are indebted to Joseph Conrad, Henry Rider Haggard, H.G. Wells, and Jules Verne as well as narratives of British colonial expeditions to Africa. Originally an anthropologist, Sánchez Piñol interlaces the narrative with dark ruminations on human nature as well as an underlying concern for the legacy of colonial literature. His primary intent, however, is giving his readers their money's worth in entertainment value. This is a work that will appeal to Ph.D.s and Indiana Jones obsessives alike. Recommended for all libraries.
A ghostwriter's ghostwriter hires on to save a man from hanging in this sly import first published in Spain in 2005. Tommy Thompson is a young English writer desperate to be published. He'll do anything and write anything to make that happen. Through a Faustian portal enters Frank Strub, a ghostwriter's ghostwriter who proposes that Tommy become ghostwriter to a ghostwriter to . . . and so it goes. Atop this ghostly totem pole perches that prince of pulp Luther Flag, whose name on a book cover in the England of 1914 has Oprah-like potency, and whose current bestseller, Pandora in the Congo, turns out to be talismanic for Tommy. It leads him to Edward Norton, the barrister charged with representing the sorely beset Marcus Garvey, who's about to be tried for the double homicide of the aristocratic Craver brothers, mindless Richard and cunning William. The smart money heavily favors the noose. So hard-pressed is Norton for a defense that he conceives the bizarre notion of novelizing his case by hiring Tommy to ghostwrite the Marcus Garvey story, making it sympathetic, making it heartbreaking, making it clear that homicide is as inimical to Garvey as it would be to, say, the saintly hero of Pandora. Tommy enlists in the cause, but as he labors an unforeseen and certainly unbecoming alchemy takes place: He finds that he's writing a love story. More problematically, he discovers that he's telling the story of his own love for Garvey's heroine. A high-concept pastiche: part thriller, part romance, part parable, part darkest-Africa adventure. If it doesn't quite have the pop of Pi-ol's debut (Cold Skin, 2005), that's probably because it's more than twice as long.