The Coma

The Coma is a Books An odd little eerie novella I really enjoyed it His descriptions of the dream state are some of the most accurate I ve ever read After being attacked on the Underground

The Coma is a Books An odd little eerie novella. I really enjoyed it. His descriptions of the dream-state are some of the most accurate I've ever read.. After being attacked on the Underground, Carl awakens from a coma to a life that seems strange and unfamiliar He arrives at his friends house without knowing how he got there Nor do they He seems to be having an affair with his secretary which is exciting, but unlikely Further unsettled by leaps in logic and time, Carl wonders if he s actually reacting to the outsideAfter being attacked on the Underground, Carl awakens from a coma to a life that seems strange and unfamiliar He arrives at his friends house without knowing how he got there Nor do they He seems to be having an affair with his secretary which is exciting, but unlikely Further unsettled by leaps in logic and time, Carl wonders if he s actually reacting to the outside world, or if he s terribly mistaken So begins a psychological adventure that stretches the boundaries of conciousness.. A viral Kindle The Coma I remember reading The Coma when it first came out some 10 years-ish ago, flying through it in a day and dismissing it as “eh, dream story, got it”. I’m glad I came back and re-read it and thought about it more afterwards as there’s a lot more to it than that (and understanding what I read, rather than chalking it up as another book down, is the whole point of why I write reviews anyway). Carl is in the office making notes on papers late into the night. His secretary calls to remind him that the last train leaves in 25 minutes so he leaves. On the underground he sees a young woman being hassled by some yoofs. He intervenes and they stomp on his head. Carl is rushed to hospital in a coma. The novella begins with Carl trying to figure out what’s happened and then how he can awaken and return to his life. Alex Garland wonderfully describes the dream state Carl finds himself in, really bringing that aspect alive for the reader. Carl goes from scene to scene without knowing how he got from one place to another, time seems to speed up, time goes backwards as he revisits favourite memories - it’s a great trip and exactly follows dream logic. The book, though some 200 pages or so in length, is actually much shorter – a mirage in itself. Take all of the text and cut out the white space, the blank pages, the woodcut drawings, and it’s more like a 60ish page short story. But actually the way the book is laid out with everything spaced out like it is, is all part of the story. The reader realises, at the same time as Carl, that his memories are extremely limited and he’s suffering from amnesia. The blank pages represent the blanks in his memory and the short chapters - some are just a paragraph - could be a way of measuring time with each chapter perhaps representing a day or an episode that he’s in a coma and conscious but not awake. The longer chapters mean he’s conscious for longer, etc. Garland’s father, Nicholas, also supplies black and white woodcut drawings which heightens the moody, haunting nature of the story. They’re a fantastic addition to the book and show that Garland was thinking more visually in his writing - an indication of his career path where he would give up prose novels (The Coma was his last book) and focus on screenwriting. More recently he’s made the transition to directing with his first film, Ex Machina, being released a couple weeks ago. But the woodcuts also serve as visual clues to the story. Later on, Carl buys a chotchkie of a strange little demon/god figure and it’s the same one as one of the three that we see breaking up the story at certain intervals/parts. I think the chotchkies are there as another indicator to mark time and indicate how many cycles Carl has gone through these memories. The first section of the book, we see one chotchkie; the second, there are two; the third there are three - Carl has lived through this book we’re reading three times. The final time we see the three chotchkies lined up, they’re set against a black background. Something’s changed. Has Carl woken up - or has he died? There’s also other ways to interpret The Coma: it might be an exercise in exploring narrative fiction from the perspective of the character. Carl is a character in a novel, so this story might be about him slowly realising this. All he knows are the facts that the author has supplied him with that we see in the opening passage of the book: he works in an office with papers, he has a secretary, he was brutally assaulted, and he’s in a coma. When he thinks about other aspects of his life, he draws a blank. If that could happen to Carl, could it happen to us – are we characters in a story we’re not aware of?It’s interesting how Garland looks at language as well - Carl has been in a coma for so long that he begins to forget how to use and the meaning of language. He throws out unconnected words and then muses on why those don’t make sense but others do, like the ones he uses to express himself. Or do they? Towards the end, the gibberish begins to make sense to him. Does that mean he’s freeing himself from the bonds of the author? Does that mean he’s deteriorating - that he’s actually dying and his brain is giving up? I can understand some readers’ frustration at the way this novel meanders but if you’ve read Garland’s most famous work, The Beach, you’ll know his theme of aimless wandering is a favourite of his. The Coma is an extension of that theme, delving further into our identities and our search for meaning. I think the search for answers and aimlessness is especially pertinent to Garland who was making the transition from feted young novelist to high profile screenwriter at this time. The Coma is that transition in a book from prose to screenwriting, as well as the answer that he was done with novels and ready to move on to something new. But there is no real answer to The Coma. The ending is that most polarising of finales: open-ended. In a way, that’s the best choice to end it - to give the illusion of finality while leaving poor Carl in his spiral of never-ending searching. In that interpretation, this is a very true representation of being in a coma - the same thing going on and on forever until you either wake up or die. Though really a narrative of aimlessness could never have a solid conclusion due to its nature. In the end, most people can read The Coma quickly as it’s well written, it’s short, and you’re going to want to see where it’s all going; but don’t. Reading a book is not a race. I’m not saying this is a masterpiece - the writing is a bit too spare and not terribly evocative at times - though it is a book that has more substance here you can easily gloss over if you speed read your way through it. The Coma is a haunting story on the nature of reality and the search for identity. It could also be read as many other things like the purpose of memories in informing our reality, the aim of narrative in our lives and our art, and, more simply, a fine, unusual entertainment for fiction lovers everywhere. Definitely well worth a read.

About Author

  1. Alex Garland born 1970 is a British novelist and screenwriter.Garland is the son of political cartoonist Nick Nicholas Garland He attended the independent University College School, in Hampstead, London, and the University of Manchester, where he studied art history.His first novel, The Beach, was published in 1996 and drew on his experiences as a backpacker The novel quickly became a cult classic and was made into a film by Danny Boyle, with Leonardo DiCaprio.The Tesseract, Garland s second novel, was published in 1998 This was also made into a film, starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers In 2003, he wrote the screenplay for Danny Boyle s 28 Days Later, starring Cillian Murphy His third novel, The Coma, was published in 2004 and was illustrated with woodcuts by his father.In 2007 he wrote the screenplay for the film Sunshine his second screenplay to be directed by Danny Boyle and star Cillian Murphy as lead Garland also served as an executive producer on 28 Weeks Later, the sequel to 28 Days Later.Garland also wrote the first screenplay for Halo, the film adaptation of the successful video game franchise by Bungie Studios.His partner is actress director Paloma Baeza.


The Coma Comment

  1. I remember reading The Coma when it first came out some 10 years ish ago, flying through it in a day and dismissing it as eh, dream story, got it I m glad I came back and re read it and thought about it afterwards as there s a lot to it than that and understanding what I read, rather than chalking it up as another book down, is the whole point of why I write reviews anyway Carl is in the office making notes on papers late into the night His secretary calls to remind him that the last train lea [...]

  2. As modern writers go, this one has the career I covet and an incredible repertoire he has been compared to Graham Greene Well, this is the WRITER OF MY GENERATION or Gen x, whatev , and therefore, it s Mr Greene who should consider himself fortunate Forgive the hyperbole For a book that requires no bookmark, this one is a must Like a riveting film, one of the best ones out there that you probably never got to see in the theater and sweetens the day considerably when you do sit down and invest ho [...]

  3. this book was the perfect length for one queens manhattan manhattan queens subway ride on a sunday shopping spree sibilant, no im taken with that fact than the actual content of the book i enjoyed it, but marabou stork nightmares is way, way better.

  4. Alex Garland is the author of The Beach, a real tour de force set on a remote island in Thailand The Beach is an awesome debut novel, and one which I read in two sittings in two days I could barely tear myself away from it, from beginning to end Garland s second novel, The Tesseract, was very different much conceptual and experimental, and unfortunately nowhere near as successful though the blurb states that J.G Ballard was a big fan The Coma is his shortest novel, and the last one to be publis [...]

  5. I should really have read this when it came out 12 years back and I was into Garland s The Beach and The Tesseract, as this is much better than either of those Quick enough to read entirely in a book shop over lunch break drawn in by the eerie woodcuts that illustrate it , but the spare elegance conveys quite a lot of philosophic weight to mull over A haunting suggestion of the loneliness of any single, inescapably solitary consciousness, in any real or imagined reality, assuming the differentia [...]

  6. I think this is maybe what happened after someone dared Alex Garland to write a novel of exactly 200 pages featuring chrysanthemums, fresh milk, bandages, a temple, a cab driver, and a nurse Go It s not that it s bad, it s just that it isn t much The narrator is in a coma, and the reader experiences all of his delusions, dreams, fractured memories, and efforts to awaken The end.

  7. When we wake, we die That s a lot of trip for such a short novel.Coma is a really ambitious story, but when it starts to unravel towards the end, it gets a bit confusing, and I will never be sure what the ending meant.Is it still a good read Yeah, of course For the kind of book this is, not answering some of the questions directly and leaving you to make your own conclusions, I think was a better choice.It does keep you hooked in, even if only to see if Carl wakes up, or if he was ever in a coma [...]

  8. First of all this book is strange Second I loved every moment of it.This book is about a man named Carl who takes a subway home and while on the tube gets attacked and is now in a coma The whole book is Carl in his dreamlike coma state Figuring out where he is and what is going on He is trying to figure out how to wake up.The book is broken up into 3 parts and each part he comes closer and farther away from consciousness Each chapter has an illustration that ties into the chapter I loved it s si [...]

  9. So so short novel.The story of a fellow who falls into a coma after being beaten on a bus Or is it the subway Or are they the same thing Confession I haven t ridden a bus since I took a group of students on a field trip in 2009 never ridden public transport never taken the subway or whatever it s called these days and only been in a taxi twice, both in 1994 Yes, I am a hermit Anyhow the story s about how he s in this sort of netherworld, sometimes feeling very alert and in tune with his surround [...]

  10. I sat down and read this all in one sitting this morning.Because of the situation narrator in a coma, struggling to get out , it was pretty well impossible to get a good grip on who the narrator is what is life is about but in that it s easy to lose yourself to this novel imagine yourself in that situation He s searching for things within his memory that will spark him, shake him free of this coma, and he struggles with his inability to remember the details, the lyrics, these type of things.I al [...]

  11. I m a huge fan of the screenplays Garland has written Ex Machina was excellent and Sunshine is one of the most underrated sci fi films I can think of but this was the first book of his that I ve read It was an easy read with an interesting premise While it wasn t nearly as captivating as the movies he is associated with, it was well executed and a fast read I would definitely read of his stuff in the future.

  12. The Coma was on the bargain table at Chapters when it caught my eye Alex Garland, I said to myself Isn t that the guy who wrote The Beach Yes, he is.I read The Beach long before it was made into a movie with the unspeakable Leonardo DiCaprio which I ve never seen , and I was fascinated I recognized the society Garland creates in The Beach in so many ways, it was scary and uncomfortable and utterly fascinating I haven t yet have the guts to read The Beach again, but it left a real impression on m [...]

  13. Garland s first book The Beach is truly one of my favorite books Maybe I happened to read it at the exact right moment in my own existence, but I connected to it on a deep level, and I found it to be not only thrilling, but quite moving I managed to miss his second novel, but after the total mess that they made of the theatrical version of The Beach, I loved 28 Days Later, so I was excited the day I picked this book up, and in the first moments I remember finding it darkly compelling Not too far [...]

  14. This is one of those dream stories where reality is vague at best There is a sense of dread in this book that, at least in part, comes from the very fine woodcuts made by the author s father I was wondering which came first, the woodcuts or this novel I suspect the woodcuts I was waiting for illumination while I read this book and it never arrived, to my disappointment Maybe others will understand this book, I hope so.

  15. Fast paced, could finish in one go Love the plot excellent writing depicting a dreamland journey of comatose Bizarre but interesting, weird and unusual Playing with logic, an unknown parallel and one s subconcious mind Think it was brilliant How Carl realised he was in the state of coma but still flying all over settling the unsettled or perhaps some needs Love the part when he met the cabby again and went back to his old house Short chapters with simple illustrations A journey to remember I do [...]

  16. It must be difficult for Alex Garland to see the majority of praise for this book pertain to how fast of a read it was This point is even emblazoned right across the back of the jacket, just in case people fail to notice how slim the book is What I wished Garland was being praised for is his really masterful ability to write sparsely, with complete lack of jazz fingers or indulging the impulse to elaborate a subject to death Hell, give him cudos for being an English novelist who abstains from wr [...]

  17. This book is a wonderful tale of the unconscious It explores a world of unconscious dreaming that is beautifully gentle in the way it slowly reveals something of the character of the narrator, and something about all of us The black and white woodcuts, by Nicholas Garland, perfectly illustrate this short story.The edition I read was the paperback, with a separate dustcover It was a delight to hold there was something about the binding, the texture, the layout, that perfectly suited the story A v [...]

  18. A thought provoking tale on the nature of coma, dreaming and their relation to the waking state and notions of personal identity Very nicely written in a simple, sparse style, which, along with Garland s father s beautiful and atmospheric woodcuts, creates both tension and dreamlike disjointedness.For those who finish the book with slight bewilderment or dissatisfaction, let me just give you a clue the same that someone was kind enough to give me acrostic.

  19. In my opinion, it was the perfect little tale, taking into consideration the subject matter You read as if you are in the coma with him, battling to wake, feeling the despair If the story were any longer, it would get tiresome to read very quickly There is only so much comatose thinking one can take.

  20. Oh dear, this simply isn t very good I m not against dream narratives Some good ones that I can think of are Kim Stanley Robinson s A Short Sharp Shock, Iain Banks The Bridge and Christopher Priest s The Dream Archipelago The Coma, however, manages to be both very brief and rather verbose A slim volume like this one ought to be packed full of memorable snippets and fragments of description and conversation What we have instead is a meandering non narrative that goes nowhere and achieves nothing. [...]

  21. The Coma, written by Alex Garland the mastermind behind the novel The Beach, as well as the films 28 Days Later and Sunshine presents a straightforward story a man finds himself trapped in a dreamworld after being put in a coma, and struggles to regain his memory in order to wake up.This man, whose true identity even he is unsure about, is Carl His experience begins as a series of scenes in which he seems to awake, all of a sudden someplace new For the reader, it is no mystery that he is dreamin [...]

  22. The premise of the book is obviously very interesting dark, surreal, and necromantic Combined with the words of praise from Kazuo Ishiguro on the back cover and the fact that it was a Guardian Books of the Year making it all and an enticing read.The book simply tells a story about a person in a coma you might be able to guess that from the title, and what s different is that this book is utilising creepy woodblock illustration from Nicholas Garland the father of the author who is a renowned il [...]

  23. A very short story about a man, Carl, who is attacked on a train and supposedly wakes from a coma only to find the lines of reality confusingly blurred On the surface, this novel appears as a story of merely experiencing a coma, however it becomes apparent that its deeper meaning is in exploring human consciousness I was drawn to this book based on my enjoyment of Alex Garlands The Beach and was keen to explore of his work This book was a very short read and I was able to finish it in approxima [...]

  24. The Coma is a bold step towards the creation of a new genre, perhaps even a new art form Kazuo Ishiguro, Observer Books of the YearThis book is really good, if you re into psychology and all Very Chilly Tells a story about a man, who got into an accident crime he was beaten to unconsciousness, and was placed into a state of coma The book perfectly describes the difference of being in dream life and wake life and almost dead life coma It digs well into the subconscious mind, with disturbing and u [...]

  25. Most reviewers compared The Coma to comic books or film, perhaps because, as a novel, it doesn t hold up terribly well Its brevity necessitates some glaring omissions, such as Carl s age and job, and it s tough to care about the characters when we don t know much about them Garland aims not so much to tell a good story as to examine and perhaps replicate altered states of consciousness Some find the project intriguing, but for most, Garland s insights aren t worth their narrative price Blending [...]

  26. Meandering and blurry, this novel attempts to give a glimpse into the dream state of its protagonist, who finds himself comatose after a brutal subway attack The main character suffers from amnesia, but it s as if Garland himself forgot to include a engaging storyline here, instead opting for opaque imagery and frustrating half memories that ultimately take the reader, and the protagonist, nowhere Too experimental for its own good, The Coma is like a dream that would be better forgotten.

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