Cover image for The coma
The coma
Garland, Alex, 1970-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Riverhead Books, [2004]

Physical Description:
200 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
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FICTION Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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The acclaimed author of The Beachreturns with a mesmerizing and highly original work of intrigue. Proclaimed "a gifted storyteller" by The New Yorkerand "a huge literary talent" by Kazuo Ishiguro, Alex Garland, the internationally bestselling author of The Beach, The Tesseract, and writer of the critically acclaimed film 28 Days Later, returns with yet another gripping page-turner that blurs the edges of reality and probes the boundaries of consciousness. A man is attacked on the Underground and awakens to find himself in a hospital, apparently having emerged from a coma. Or has he? Garland's brilliant tale is illustrated with forty haunting woodblock print illustrations by his father, Nicholas Garland, a well-known political cartoonist for the Daily Telegraph(UK) and noted artist.

Author Notes

Born in London in 1970, Alex Garland published his first novel, The Beach, when he was 26. Set among a group of backpackers in Southeast Asia, The Beach is a fast-paced and suspenseful thriller that has been called the first serious Generation X novel. Like The Lord of the Flies, to which it has sometimes been compared, The Beach deals with a dark side of humanity, revealed when the characters find themselves set apart from civilization.

Garland's second novel, The Tesseract, was published in 1998 and is also set in Southeast Asia, this time in the Philippines. The Tesseract follows the lives of several different characters during one night in Manila, with the different stories all coming together to meet in an explosive ending.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Slight but entertaining, this Mobius strip of a novel should fuel the cult following that Garland cultivated among twentysomethings with The Beach (1996) and the screenplay for 28 Days Later, which imagined an England overrun by zombies. Like that film, this book follows a man who awakens from a coma inside a London hospital. But in this case, the dawning horrors he faces might all be inside his head. What we know, or think we know, is that the man's name is Carl. One night, on the last train home, he stands to intervene when a gang of young toughs accosts a fellow passenger. The next thing Carl knows, he is in the hospital trying to swim back to consciousness. From there, the spare, sly story takes several Kafkaesque turns, its foreboding mood heightened by the woodblock illustrations of Garland's father. We watch, admiring, as Carl dopes out his states of consciousness and logically navigates a course back toward normal. But just when the facts start coming into focus, the view blurs up again, and we cannot help but smile. --Frank Sennett Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

In the latest novel by the bestselling author of the Generation X thriller The Beach, a young man who fell into a coma after being assaulted on the London Underground tries to piece his life back together. Shuttling in dreamlike fashion between his hospital bed and a hazy succession of places-his apartment, friends' houses, a record shop, a bookshop, his childhood home, a shrine-he sifts through conflicting memories of his past and unanswerable questions about his present. The novel reaches for Kafkaesque ambiguity-is the narrator awake or in a dream? did he ever come out of the coma? is there a difference between ourselves and our fantasies?-but Garland's parable feels more like an exercise than a true exploration, constricted by its sluggish pace and plodding prose ("I stood. I raised a hand. I said, `Hey' "). Forty woodblock illustrations by the author's father, Sir Nicholas Garland, a political cartoonist and artist, are handsome but function as little more than filler. By the end of the story, with the narrator unable to tell the difference between reality and fantasy, he finally decides, "None of it was real. I didn't care." Chances are good the reader will feel the same way. Agent, Robin Straus. Author tour. (July 6) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

A man badly clobbered on the Underground awakens from a coma-or does he? With woodblock illustrations; from the author of The Beach. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.