What’s it all about?:
In 1938, two rival expeditions set off for a lost Mayan temple in the jungles of Honduras, one intending to shoot a screwball comedy on location there, the other to disassemble the temple and ship it back to New York. A seemingly endless stalemate ensues, and twenty years later a rogue CIA agent sets out to exploit it for his own ends, unaware that the temple is the locus of grander conspiracies than anyone could have imagined.
Showcasing the anarchic humour, boundless imagination and unparalleled prose of one of the finest writers of his generation, this is a masterful novel that teases, absorbs, entertains and dazzles in equal measure.
What did I think?:
First of all, thank you so much to Sceptre publishers, an imprint of Hodder & Stoughton for sending me a copy of this intriguing novel in exchange for an honest review. I finished this book a couple of days ago and to be perfectly honest, I’m still trying to collect my thoughts to write a coherent review about it! I’ve only previously read Glow by Ned Beauman which I did a mini pin-it review about HERE and I have to admit I wasn’t blown away, so I was interested to read something else by him as it’s perfectly obvious that his writing is stunning. Even now, I’m struggling to rate Madness Is Better Than Defeat – some parts confused the hell out of me and I felt like I had to concentrate and be completely immersed in the story without distractions, other parts were utter brilliance.
It’s also such a tough book to describe! The synopsis above pretty much says it all, two rival expeditions are sent into the jungle to an ancient Mayan temple for two completely different reasons. One expedition wants to tear the temple down and take it to New York, the other expedition wants to film a movie there so requires the temple to be fully intact. As soon as the rival teams meet each other, of course there are fireworks aplenty. It ends up with the two groups at stalemate, each refusing to submit and each person in the team refusing to leave the jungle. They end up spending their lives out there (we’re talking DECADES) – foraging for food, fighting between themselves and even making babies. However, the temple and what it holds within its walls is stranger and more bizarre than anybody could have imagined and as the jungle dwellers begin to succumb to a strange madness, there are people on the outside in New York with their own agenda for the temple who will stop at nothing to get what they desire.
A lot of this book doesn’t make any sense at all but in a way, that’s part of its charm and quirkiness. In the very first pages we are treated to a scene where a man is betting on who will win in a fight between an octopus and a diver (yes, you read that right!) and throughout the novel, we get some wonderful, snarky humour from Ned Beauman that really lifted the slower parts of the narrative for me. Some might call this book a bit of a slog and at times, I did feel that I must admit. It jumps around perspective wise and sometimes it can take a minute to get your head around which character you’re hearing from – and there are a lot, believe me. There was a huge variety in characters and they all seemed very well rounded, even those we hear from just briefly but at times, I did feel like I didn’t have a clue what was going on and it was a bit too much. However, I have to say that even at a particularly slow part, I never felt like I wanted to give up on the novel. I did want to see it through to the end, even if I finished it wondering just what on earth happened?! This novel might not be for everyone but if you fancy a unique read that’s refreshingly different from everything else out there at the moment, I would recommend Ned Beauman.
Would I recommend it?:
Star rating (out of 5):