Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Weight of Numbers by Simon Ings

Events counterpoised with the moon landing are a central set piece of this novel, which is appropriate since every scene in this novel is as pitiless and barren as the face of the moon. This bleakness permeates whether appropriate or not as Ings twists and turns through events and characters spread over the last half of the 20th century. The right tone for Mozambique in the grips of the genocidal civil war between FRELIMO and the South Africa (and Rhodesia) supported contras RENAMO or London during the blitz, but for swinging 60’s London is more disconcerting, though I much prefer it to a nostalgic sentimental view. Like a more organic David Mitchell, Ings creates a canvas filled with interacting characters from a sixties radical turned human smuggler, a child star turned to a suicidal anorexic performance artist, astronauts, Turing styled math genius who envisions the internet in the 50’s and is disturbed on actually seeing it completed, anti-Castro activist turned marijuana smuggler and in settings from Chicago, London, Florida, Mozambique through 70 or so years. As the character descriptions indicate the unreliability of human dreams and the danger of them is a major theme.

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