Tuesday, January 10, 2012
AudioReview: Millennium People
3 Stars - Recommended to readers familiar with genre
8 CD's (approx 9 hours)
Audiobook Publisher: AudioGo
The middle class residents of Chelsea Marina are rebelling. Tired of being squeezed, they are influenced by neighbor Richard Gould to make a stand - by refusing to pay their mortgage and heating bills, smoke bombing random pedestrian businesses, and setting fire to their homes as the police come to evict them.
Meanwhile, David Markham - this story's emotionally detached narrator - learns that his ex-wife was killed by a bomb that exploded in the Heathrow Airport Baggage carousel. Desperate to uncover the people behind this seemingly meaningless act, he pretends to join Gould's movement in the hopes of sniffing out the truth. It isn't long before David finds himself slowly being pulled under by Gould's charismatic speeches and unarguable charm, and becomes a part of much more than he initially bargained for.
At the heart of JG Ballard's novel is a theme that eerily mirrors the recent #OWS picketing that took place in New York City (and other strategically placed pockets throughout the country) - a group of middle class people who have grown tired of being abused and bled dry by the government. Wanting to be noticed, wishing to be taken seriously, both groups - our posh residents of Ballard's Chelsea Marina and our peaceful protestors of OWS - find creative and increasingly aggressive ways to communicate their unhappiness with the way things are being run and the decisions that are being made.
OK, I am about to share a little secret with you. You have to promise not to let this little confession come between us, alright? I am about to tell you something that may forever change your opinion of me, but I need you to try really hard not to let it... ok?! You promise?
I admit to being your typical GenXer. I love to talk a good game when it comes to the way this country is flushing itself down the shitter, like so much vomit and diarrhea. But I prefer to keep my nose out of the political scene and I will never do anything about the things I don't like because (1) I find politics and political thinking to be a bit boring, and (2) it all just seems like too much friggen work. I mean c'mon, they refer to my generation as "slackers" and for good reason. Most of us just don't want to be bothered. Or, perhaps more correctly, we don't know how to be bothered. We don't know things to be any other way, honestly. As we were coming of age, this country was already heading full speed towards the brick wall. Things have been falling down around our ears for as long as we can remember, and we're kind of OK with that. Or, at least, that's what we tell ourselves.
Thank god for the Gen Nexters - that digitally equipped, emotionally upset generation born into social unrest. These guys have some bite to go with their bark. They are scared for their future and are not afraid to rip it from the hands of those in power. My pathetically copacetic generation could learn a thing or two from these guys.
So, here-in lies my issue with Millennium People. The middle class residents of Chelsea Marina definitely belong to my generation, so I find it a bit difficult to believe that these characters have agreed to not only take economic matters into their own hands and attempt to affect change, but that they do so willingly, together, in the way that they do. I suppose it is possible that the GenXer's of the UK (in which this novel is set) demonstrate behaviors that are the complete opposite of their US counterparts... Then again, once I look back at how the book ended, I kind of see that JD Ballard agrees with me on this one. So perhaps my issue is null and void?
Beyond that, I felt the story moved at a rather slow pace. Now, I should admit here that I am reviewing this novel based on the audio version of the book, so the pacing of the story could actually have been impacted by the audiobook's narrator, David Rintoul - who, if I'm being honest, sounded quite bored and emotionally unattached from the whole thing. Perhaps if I had read it in print, I could have better controlled the pace of the novel, increased the speed at which things unraveled? Rintoul has this soft, sighing sort of voice that - even when reading a scene in which things are happening quickly - fails to fully convey the panic.
If I were to compare this book to a pot of water on the stove, it would most resemble that point where the water is poised to boil.. where you can see the little bubbles beginning to cluster at the bottom of the pot, but damned if they never actually break off and rise to the top in a roiling, chaotic foam.
I understand that this novel invokes strong "love it / hate it" feelings in its readers. When I finished the book, I scanned through the review on Goodreads.com and saw people who refer to it as a British "Fight Club" for grown-ups , liken it to Karl Marx's Revolutionary Theory, and then others who disliked it enough to put it down unfinished. It stirs up different triggers in different people. I don't feel bad that I didn't enjoy Millennium People because I understand that my reaction to it is based on my own personal feelings and experiences. I'm not criticizing the writing. I'm simply working through my own subjective baggage.