Troubador SpiderLand

Released: 28/05/2019

ISBN: 9781789018912

Format: Paperback

Review this Book


A Brief Look-back at a Working Life


J is either a compulsive mass-murderer reflecting on her life, or a delusional psychiatric in-patient reflecting on his; or, J is both. Possibly…
An unnamed narrator describes her role as an ‘operator’ for an unnamed organization that appears to sanction random and violent assassinations. She looks back at her life, offering first-person accounts of her childhood, her schooling and the death of her father. She describes how she has come to work for the organization, the types of murders she has committed and the reasons for committing them. She shows no remorse. She offers no justification, other than to say that she is in the business of keeping her city clean.
But all is not as it first appears. What is the organization; and why is a particular station on the London Underground so important to it? What is the nature of the training she has undergone; and why does it seem to be related to dark and violent forces at the heart of her childhood? It becomes clear that other voices are breaking through into her narrative: some in Russian, some as overheard conversations in English. The narrator may not be the woman she believes herself to be; these other voices may hold the key to her identity, as ‘J’. The question is: exactly who or what is J? 

Odd, like a dream. This is a book that I can't work out, if the narrator is alive, dead, sane or insane. Hard going in places and thought provoking in others. Not perfect but not like anything else ive ever read. Nearest comparison would be a bit like Easton Ellis and a bit like Vonneghut.

by Claude de Croix

I was diagnozed with D.I.D. dissocitive identity diorder, it used to be "split personality" Im medicated for the anxiety and probably always will be. Anyhow, this story is about someone who has D.I.D it is the most realistic depiction i have read, it is me in so many ways except the killings (spoiler!) obv. I loved this but it is not for wveryone. Its very hard reading and jumps all over the place, but that is what DID is like. I think the writer is a psychiatrist or psychologist and has obv worked in the field. Dark, deep, challenging read.

by Emma

I loved the pre-view i read. Dark stuff and very weird in places. This is inside the mind of a killer.

by SK

hmmm... where to start. The bad bits: jumps all over the place, one third of it is in Russian (!), it leaves more questions unanswered, the plot appears to start and end in exactly the same place... the good bits: I love the idea that this is in the head of the character, all of the story is going on in one hour inside her (or is it his?!) head, it's really strange and some bits really made me think... and the absolute best bit is, weird, right in the middle, the most beautiful description of surfing I have ever read! it makes sense if you re-read it... this is brilliant for an unknown writer but some of the language is a bit dense and some is abit flowery... still, you won't read anything like it...

by foxo'connell

Disclaimer: I work with the author; I have read and re-read some of this as it was being written. I am a mental-health practitioner, as is the author.

I did not find this 'literary' in a conventional sense: the plotting is erratic, the characters do not have names (being denoted by single letters) and there appear to be typographical insertions of random symbols throughout the text. I would have liked to have seen the characters fleshed out; as an example, I am still not fully aware of a large part of J's biography.

Having said that, this is the most unusual book I have read about the actual experience of a range of mental-health challenges; unusual, because it explores why a delusion may be preferable to what we, sometimes erroneously, refer to as 'reality'. It is unswerving in asking the question: what does it mean to be mentally unwell?

As a contribution to the mental-health canon, this is a brave and worthwhile attempt. I particularly recommend this to medical students who are interested in psychology and psychiatry.

by Dr S-J B

I dont ever give four stars this book gets 4 because it is just strange IN A GOOD WAY !(haha); read it and see what albums you have. In the middle of the book the main 'character' lists her favourite albums, like a poem. Brilliant. I don't understand a lot of it - i'ts definietly one that you have to read again. but it's a shortish book and every time you do read it something else comes out... about insanity and violence, surfing and trains!

by paul

Clearly the writer is a fan of great music. The title made me immediately think of Slint, who do get a sort of mention. Quite strange, this- I think it takes place inside the head of a m=patient in a consulting room with her/his psychiatrist. The 'working life' bit might all be in her head... WARNING: almost a third of this is in Russian, so if you cant speak Russian you will need to get it translated!! Why Russian? Read the book and find out!

by Steve A

I got to read this in the early stages of development... I am really looking forward to official release.....this is a puzzling, chaotic, frightening story about how a delusion can be so overwhelming and so vivid that it can be infinitely preferable to anything else- and resistant to treatment as a consequence. This is like a companion to notes from underground, in many ways. very dark, very strange. And peppered with moments of clarity and even beauty, the surfing description in the middle is lovely- and a bit like a calm oasis in a very bleak story. like others might have said, surfing has got nothing to do with the story of the character- everything is either imagined or dreamed, it seems.

by OH

I loved the premise. I loved the oddness. I liked the fractured narrative. I didn't like the Russian language bits because I don't speak Russian. This is not a perfect book, and some of it is not even enjoyable (just odd). It is different, though...

by Lara B

Love this, very unusual look at someone who has been abused, becomes unwell and tries to rationalise the abuse as being part of a training programme for a CIA type organisation (i think?) I evn laughed at some bits and that is rare when you are dealing with subject matter like this.

by Sophia Bonetti

J is delusional, that much is true. J is not a killer, though- even though she thinks she is. And that is the heart of this strange little tale. J is angry, and in the final chapter, reveals why. This is a book about memory, and about how we can choose what our memory serves (the version of reality that suits). In a n age of "fake news" this is about how we convince ourselves of our own fictions.Some of the plotting doesn't work, it must be said. The fractured narrative can be very disorienting. But those criticisms aside, this is a 230 page book: I found myself at page 110 before I realised that I wanted a break. This will suck you in. Anyone who is interested in how child abuse can distort the psyche should read this. And it isn't a misery-memoir; far from it. This is like a cross between a psychological thriller, a travelogue,and a diary.

by Sally Hanson

I am Netherlands student psychology, fourth year. This is a book that makes me think about illness in new way. I speak a little Russian and aome Serbian. I can tell you, fellow readers, that the letter at end of this book - last chapter - is a part translation of the Russian text throughout. Quite clever touch although I am not sure many people who don't speak the Russian langauge will see that! This could have been 100 more pages - not enough done to bring fo life the other characters, but i suppose thats the idea; all of the characters are faceless medical staff inside the illness. Interesting read.

by Poesi van Helden

This is about anger, memory, abuse. Not a tough read because of the subject because it’s all metaphors and euphemism. That’s not a criticism it’s what makes this not your usual misery porn. This is a strange and interesting place to visit...

by Duck and Dunne

Sorry, couldn't disagree more with EU Cummings. the disjointed arc is about what it feels like to have d.i.d. you read this and feel all over the place, not grounded or anything this book induces the feeling in the reader that people with the illness have. For that reason it's well worth a read.

by annabel march-miller

This is actully about paranoid might seem like its d.i.d but it isnt paanoid schiz is whar ron kray had.. This is like reading inside the mind of a similatly disturbed individual. The trick with this s not to read it as a novel.....this is like reading the thoughts of a very disturbed person... Read it like that and it makes sense.....j is a paranoid scizophrenicand these are her thoughts..

by Ezra

Been done this "everything is imagined". Not an original premise. This is done well though. Spoiler: the surf is a bath or shower / sanitation block... I did actually get into this. It is about schizophrenia as others have said. Three stars because: characters should have been developed further. If it was on lovely moments of writing alone i would have given four. I lved the rants about "our digital mediocrity". I laughed out loud there.

by Figginz45

As mixd up & detached from reality as the illness its about!!!!!! Ill give it four stars though Why? Because its original ,strange, jerky, dark" the Slint album its named after!

by James

Good: unusual, clever, challenging.
Bad: jumpy, complicated, character-less.
Overall: three out of five.
Recommend: yes, but Ballard is better.
For: anyone interested in mental-illness writing.

by (C)Lit Fan

This is an existential novel and has everything to do with Camus and Nietzsche. this is not to say that it is a comparable novel-of course not-but it is brilliant for a first novel. of course it is not a five star novel but it is a four of anyone's money.

This is about how trauma and pain buidls the narratives that are human beings-human beings are just a composite of their experiences and memories and when memory deteriorates, so does the human. this is what spiderland is about.

The russian language is not a conceit -- it is about how we seek meaning in anything because we are compelled to do so and canot help doing so, so looking at russian symvbols ann words is like looking at magic and spells and coding, for J.


by maeve

Good-weirdness + concept
So/So-fractured plot
Love-characters have no names
Hate-characters have no names!
Recommend-yes but be prepared to be frustrated and challenged

by Paula Mackie

'Two pointless, entitled specimens for whom lower second-class degrees in Exercise Science or some such would oil their predictable path to glorious mediocrity'. One of the best lines in a book that is by turns interesting, thought provoking, frustrating and confusing.

My other favourite lines are;

'Nothing says “thank you for your contribution” quite like four broken ribs and a punctured lung'.

'I looked down at my hands and saw my fingers extend outwards, like wires. I saw a newspaper and it reported missing children. I saw a grave with no marker. I thought of my father'.

'At an impossible speed, so fast that I barely had time to understand the purging of life from my twisting body, I was rolled in the jaws and pushed below the surface. The violence with which the Southern Ocean seeks to claim a prize should never be underestimated'.

There are lots of others but these are the ones that resonate for me. This is the frustration of this book: some of the imagery is so spot on perfect that you end up forgiving the writer that the plot is all over the place! This book is all about violence under the surface of serenity- I think this is why such a large part of it is devoted to describing surfing and the sea.

by darnel paterson

Overall... I wasn't moved by it, sorry. Tiny bit of Killing Eve (female assassin) although, as I understand it, this book was in progress two years ago. Some elements of existentialism as others have said; a bit clunky though. The premise- "this is all in someone's head"- is not original, but I can see Chris Nolan or similar doing something complicated, as is his wont, and making this into an Inception-like film. I really loved the surfing bit, strangely; this is the basis for a great novella, about the redemptive power of surfing- a Lonliness of the Long Distance Runner-type of thing. I was impressed by the angularity of the prose, in places- like the knives and implements used in old insane asylums (dare I say it!) This is ok; just not for me.

by JDugdale

Daniel sheehan is either a genius or don draper. this is a book about memory disintegrating. this is a story about the sad indictment of mental heath care. this is a tale about what it is like inside the mind of someone with zero empathy, guilt ,or humanity. the payoff if you can call it that is finding out that j is male and female(she has some condition called ovotesticular disorder whichi had to ggogle but basically its where you have no discernible male or female genitalia
) i care? Not really about j and not about the people she might have killed".".......and it is not clear that she has even killed anyone..... So a book in which i dont care about the main character,!,,,,,! So why do i like this book????? Because reading it is like feeling i makes you feel detached, its a trip. I think pal is a dog and i cared aboutnpal but i lve animals!!

by Carantine

I really like the strangeitude of this.......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................and I am a fan of Slint, so smiles all round.

by benjamin ginsai-dowd

I was confused from start to finish! Murderer? Or mentally ill. this is like a diary or journal more than like a story. Like other people have said, the plot lines are all over the shop and it can be hard to follow. The imagery is really lovely in places though. If you like nontrad. transgressive fiction you might like this.....

by steve lee

Quite wordy, but this I dont mind so much. Is like memories fragments from the illness in the mind. All the memories are not in order. J is dying I think? You read of bits of remembered life. J is fading away. It all seems to be set in one hour in the head of J. Inside a hospital. It took me three reads to know that the surf is a hallucination because J is in a bath. The rain on the ocean is a shower being switched on! I quite like this and finished it quickly. Makes you read it over again because you missed clues........

by Roksan Thorens

I give this book from a birthday. It is hard as English is another language for me. I like a lot the hospital and mental unwell patterns in the story. It is too dense at the beginning and it is a hard read. The middle area is beautiful in it's describing that is surfing alone.

by dorine lascelle

Sorry but didn't get it. opening is far too flowery, you get lost in the prose. Then there's a weird switch, where the second half is like propoer writing and short sentences. I was told it's meant to be schizophrenic-like the styles of writing are supposed to jar against each other so you feel what its like to be in the delusion..............................dont know if that works but good try I suppose. I could see this as a film,true. Dont kjow if Id watch it though. Some weird wes craven meets jordan peel thing maybe. I can see the appeal of it but i couldnt get into it. Three stars only.

by Sam Dunn

Write like a diary of suffering! Only a short book in small chapters. Very dark in places. The antihero is remembering her life up to being put in a hospital. She is abused by a man; she wants to murder men; she fantasises that she does so legally. Interesting idea, doing the round on our campus- the book!

by Karine Orlåssen

I liked this........................................


Quick to read but to read in short could read all of the chapters out of sequence and there are sort of twenty short stories.....................................................

This is about one woman or man who does not talk to their therapist but imagines an entire world inside their head instead of engaging in the real one...........................................

by Famke Nilssen

troubling,dark,weird,dark,strange,deep,dark: an ocean of oddness. i really liked it but it is heavy-going, in places.

by Jess G

Dark and disjointed.
I like the strange.
It should be longer to bring out characters.
The jump from Australia is too big.
The ideas are good.

by Calt3k

Tries to hard to be clever, reads like case studies instead of a novel. Saying that - I really like the bits where the murders are - these are the character's delusions, like they are all sides of the character not different people... love this aspect... the rest is ok like I said - a bit to clever? Hard work not easy to read...……...

by An0n1Moo53

Le sexe et la drogue, c’est essentiellement de cela qu’il s’agit. Et pas une confiserie heureuse avec l’un ou l’autre. J est un sans-abri, probablement gravement malade mental. J est aussi fantasmagoriste. Et fondamentalement, ce livre est sur les fantasmes parce qu’aucun de ce que J dit est probable.

J’ai aimé, mais je ne pensais pas que le russe était nécessaire- cela aurait pu travailler facilement en anglais. Je pense qu’il a été inclus parce que J fantasme que le russe est une sorte de code.

by Aficionado parisien de nuit

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