Thank the lord for audiobooks. If it wasn’t for Martyn Reed’s voice reading me Alex Garland’s second book, The Tesseract, I would have died of boredom this past two days tidying my bedroom. As it was, with the convoluted plot being read to me whilst I did my summer cleaning, it was actually a pleasant experience.
I’ve not read Alex Garland’s debut, The Beach, but I’ve seen the film version of it, and, whilst I loved all the shots of Leonardo DiCaprio with his shirt off, I thought the film itself was ploddy and at parts, unintentionally hilarious. That said, it was still fairly thrilling, and thrill is something that The Tesseract offered from the start to finish.
Told in four parts, The Tesseract begins with Sean, a sailor on the shipping waters of Manila, waiting in a run-down motel for the gangster, Don Pepe to pay him a visit. Next, the story shifts to a doctor, Rosa, who is waiting for her husband Sonny to come home, as she reminisces about her first love, Lito. The next story follows two young Filipino hustlers, Vincente and Totoy, as they wander the streets of Manila in search of some easy dosh. And then there’s the finally, so climactic, so wonderfully clever in weaving the three threads together, that it makes Magnolia look like Little Britain.
The ambitious plot device made The Tesseract are hard story to write, but Garland completely succeeds. His modulates tone perfectly; from the nervous panic in Sean’s strand, to the romantic and bittersweet telling of Rosa’s romance of Lito, to the philosophical musings of Alfredo, a psychologist who Vincente and Totoy go to to sell their dreams to. At times, the pseudo-science gets a bit grating, and the flashback-within-flashback strategy left me a bit confused. I liked the novel most when it played things simple; and my favourite plot of the three was by far Rosa's, the tale of her and Lito was handled very beautifully.
Towards the end, Garland ran the serious risk of running himself off at a tangent, but luckily, he kept the story in control. The finale is as interesting as it is satisfying, tying in all three plot strands with one denouement, like the converging Tesseract of the title.
Oh, and the book was read aloud by Martyn Reed, who has a lovely voice; very deep and enigmatic.