The Islands by Carlos Gamerro – review
The ultra-violent action in this weird and wonderful thriller centres on Felipe Félix, a Buenos Aires hacker who, 10 years after he returns from the Falklands with shrapnel in his brain, gets caught up in corporate skulduggery when a construction tycoon hires him to track down witnesses to a murder committed by his wayward heir. Félix's task involves, among other bizarre operations, the cocaine-fed development of a virus-laden video game recasting Galtieri's invasion as a triumph. First published in Spanish in 1998, it's rife with surreal horror and rampant bad taste, coming across as something like a William Gibson novel narrated with the vitriol of Céline's wartime classic Journey to the End of the Night. You sense clearly that it's meant as a caustic satire on nationalism, even if the precise target of some of the more outlandish passages isn't always easy to make out. As Félix at last confronts the ghosts of the 1982 conflict, it's his remarkable voice – angry, wounded, often hilarious – that keeps you rapt. Ian Barnett's English text (a collaboration with the Argentinian author) looks like a feat of translation, in which the labyrinthine sentences writhe with inventive similes.
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