Like well-crafted counterpoint, Mike McCormack's Notes from a Coma is made up of independent, yet interdependent, parts. Two parts, in this case. The first is the "beautifully rendered look at small-town Irish life"
and the life of JJ O'Malley, told in five voices, each of whom is being interviewed by an unknown person. Here the text flows naturally and comfortably. The second part occurs in the footnotes (which are long, often 4-6 pages!). There lies a deeply cerebral exploration of the history, ethics, and various implications of the Somnos project. It was a challenge to switch back and forth between the easy tone and style of the main text and the difficult passages that make up the footnotes. This duality was certainly a unique way of reading and took some getting used to; it also highlighted McCormack's versatility and skill as a writer.
Thinking about the book as a whole, I feel the title "Notes from a Coma" is very poignant. The word "coma" ended up having a deeper meaning than I first considered...
I felt the book ended much too soon. What were JJ's experiences during those 3 months? What was the general population privy to that raised the Somnos volunteers to such
celebrity status? Brief moments would pique my curiosity, but then never develop. That was a little disappointing. I suppose these things were simply left up to the imagination, but I enjoyed McCormack's writing style so much I wanted to read those details.
I did expect more science fiction. Coma patients hooked up and feeding out to the Internet?! That has so many possibilities! It's the type of sci-fi I get excited about reading. But this isn't that type of novel. There are hints of science fiction, but ultimately this is a great work of literary/psychological fiction. It is well worth the read.
* I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. I did not receive any other compensation for this review. *