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The Singer's Gun

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Everyone Anton Waker grew up with is corrupt. His parents deal in stolen goods and his first career is a partnership venture with his cousin Aria selling forged passports and social security cards to illegal aliens. Anton longs for a less questionable way of living in the world and by his late twenties has reinvented himself as a successful middle manager. Then a routine s Everyone Anton Waker grew up with is corrupt. His parents deal in stolen goods and his first career is a partnership venture with his cousin Aria selling forged passports and social security cards to illegal aliens. Anton longs for a less questionable way of living in the world and by his late twenties has reinvented himself as a successful middle manager. Then a routine security check suggests that things are not quite what they appear. And Aria begins blackmailing him to do one last job for her. But the seemingly simple job proves to have profound and unexpected repercussions.

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Everyone Anton Waker grew up with is corrupt. His parents deal in stolen goods and his first career is a partnership venture with his cousin Aria selling forged passports and social security cards to illegal aliens. Anton longs for a less questionable way of living in the world and by his late twenties has reinvented himself as a successful middle manager. Then a routine s Everyone Anton Waker grew up with is corrupt. His parents deal in stolen goods and his first career is a partnership venture with his cousin Aria selling forged passports and social security cards to illegal aliens. Anton longs for a less questionable way of living in the world and by his late twenties has reinvented himself as a successful middle manager. Then a routine security check suggests that things are not quite what they appear. And Aria begins blackmailing him to do one last job for her. But the seemingly simple job proves to have profound and unexpected repercussions.

30 review for The Singer's Gun

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jeffrey Keeten

    ”Afterward, every destination acquired a sudden glow of hellfire, every trip an element of thoroughly unwanted suspense. Escape has become a problem in itself. A travel book without danger----to the body, the soul or the future----is entirely out of time. ...We stand in need of something stronger now: the travel book you can read while making your way through this new, alarming world.” Michael Pye The New York Times, June 1, 2003 All Anton Waker ever wanted was a normal job. Not a normal low paying ”Afterward, every destination acquired a sudden glow of hellfire, every trip an element of thoroughly unwanted suspense. Escape has become a problem in itself. A travel book without danger----to the body, the soul or the future----is entirely out of time. ...We stand in need of something stronger now: the travel book you can read while making your way through this new, alarming world.” Michael Pye The New York Times, June 1, 2003 All Anton Waker ever wanted was a normal job. Not a normal low paying job, but a normal fairly high paying job. He was willing to exchange whatever brilliance he possessed in exchange for monthly remuneration. He has a Harvard diploma literarily not worth the paper it is printed on, but still it represents the world he wishes to live in. He is trying desperately to escape his past. In the world we live in now, no one is invisible, no one can ever truly start over. Your history follows you through the matrix. Your past arrives before you do. Anton’s parents have a shop, a warehouse really, where things that have been “liberated” from other places. These items arrive to be cleaned, to possibly be repainted, and when ready they become objects d’art in people’s homes. Anton finds the whole business distasteful. On the other hand, his cousin Aria takes to it like a duck to water. It becomes a training ground for her future shady career of providing documentations for those in desperate need to stay in the United States. Anton was in many ways as bright as Aria, but he didn’t possess that feral ability to survive at all costs. He helps her build her business, but the whole time he pines for a job, a job just like anyone else. He does get this job complete with a secretary, Elena, originally from Inuvik (too far North to say where) Canada. Things are going fine until Elena disappears one day. Then a few days later he is moved from his office to a “larger” office on a lower floor near the basement with no explanations. I started to feel the uneasy shading of a Kafka novel. But then corporate America IS a Kafka novel. His girlfriend Sophie is a cellist, a very neurotic, brilliant musician. She has agreed to marry him three times and called off the wedding after the invitations have been sent out twice. His best friend Gary offered him some insight. ”I don’t mean to state the obvious, but being in awe of someone’s talent isn’t really the same thing as being in love with them.” Anton’s carefully manufactured life is starting to come apart at the seams. Elena reappears, almost out of the mist, at a time when his life has reached a new all time low. He has always had a crush on her, but isn’t it so unimaginative to have an affair with his secretary? ”The worst thing about having an affair was that he was naturally good at it.” Elena has a different view of having a normal job. ”I’ve been working since I was sixteen years old, except for that one semester at Columbia, and the initial shock of work hasn’t worn off yet. I still have these moment where I think, Come on, this can’t possibly be it. I cannot possibly be expected to do something this awful day in and day out until the day I die. It’s like a life sentence imposed in the absence of a crime.” Here, here! A toast to the beautiful young lady from Northern Canada. Anton swears that he will never work for Aria again, but then she knows things about him that would make any kind of future relationship with his wife nonexistent. He agrees to do one more job for her, on his honeymoon in Italy. What could possibly go wrong? I’m now considering changing my name to Jeffrey St. James Keeten. It certainly would lend weight and saintliness to my name. It seems to be working for Emily St. John Mandel, not that she needed any help. She has a clean, taut writing style that certainly reflects the Ernest Hemingway school of cut, cut, cut. Her observations of the current conditions that we exist under lend characteristics to her creations that had me identifying and even sympathizing with their plight. She had me concerned, as well, about a 4,600 year old pine tree, an aging water system in New York, and the gun in the purse of a singer in Naples. I had heard great things about her new book Station Eleven and contacted a bookseller in Houston where she was about to appear for a signing. He said to me, “when we heard the book was going into a second printing pre-publication we ordered a stack of 1st printings.” Does the guy know how to tweak a collector’s interest or what? I’m investing in St. John Mandel and will be curious to see if her new book will prove as interesting as this voyage from Inuvik to New York to Ischia. ***4.5 out of 5 stars*** If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten

  2. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Smith

    Anton Walker is bright, he’s a brilliant student at high school and dreams of one day holding down an ‘executive position’. His cousin, Aria, is displaced when her parents skip the country and abandon her. Aria steals things. How a Anton is influenced by Aria and where this leads them both is at the core of this tale. Told in her standard style, jumping around in time and place, Emily St. John Mandel places layers of the story on the page until it all knits together and makes sense. She is a mas Anton Walker is bright, he’s a brilliant student at high school and dreams of one day holding down an ‘executive position’. His cousin, Aria, is displaced when her parents skip the country and abandon her. Aria steals things. How a Anton is influenced by Aria and where this leads them both is at the core of this tale. Told in her standard style, jumping around in time and place, Emily St. John Mandel places layers of the story on the page until it all knits together and makes sense. She is a master at creating a mood. This time it’s modern noir as the veil is gradually lifted on the shadowy life of the self destructive Anton. I'm tempted to say I preferred the style to the substance, but I think this would be a bit unfair to Mandel. Though I’d not truly consider this either a mystery novel or a thriller, in truth it does ticks both boxes. But it offers so much more: intriguing, complex characters whose story is told in snippets, flashing forward and back in time, and dialogue that is always crisp and authentic. It skilfully delves deep into the inner thoughts of the characters, giving them depth whilst providing the insight that allows us to appreciate the motives for the actions they take. I rooted for Anton. I wanted him to find to find happiness, if not redemption. Whether or not he does you’ll have to read the book to find out – and read it you should. It’s a very well written piece, as all of the author’s books are. If I have a criticism it’s that it lacks the edge of the seat tension I associate with the very best books of this type, but I believe the strengths of this book are sufficient for it demand a wide audience.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Claudia

    I liked the structure of this book a lot, but I found myself not particularly involved. It left me feeling rather unmoved. It was odd, really; it started off feeling like a thriller, but then those elements sort of dropped out and it became a more regular novel, as it were, but one that was built really well. I found myself appreciating the way the story was unfolding, intellectually, and thinking, "well, this is clever," but I kept feeling a bit detached from the characters themselves (even whe I liked the structure of this book a lot, but I found myself not particularly involved. It left me feeling rather unmoved. It was odd, really; it started off feeling like a thriller, but then those elements sort of dropped out and it became a more regular novel, as it were, but one that was built really well. I found myself appreciating the way the story was unfolding, intellectually, and thinking, "well, this is clever," but I kept feeling a bit detached from the characters themselves (even when one important scene took place on a block friends of mine used to live on). I also liked the way the cat became a plot point. I know it's a longstanding joke in movie land (see Save the Cat!: The Last Book on Screenwriting You'll Ever Need) but this wasn't just a cheap one-shot effect. The cat was important at various moments--as a genuinely loved pet should be, really. Conversely, I didn't love the way Sophie, the fiancee, was portrayed; I have a better sense of the cat's personality than I do of hers. Right from the start she's described as difficult and high-maintenance, but there's no real explanation of why she's like that in the first place.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    I'm a fan of this young author! Emily St. John Mandel is a talented writer. If people enjoy reading 'Tana French' --I think they will enjoy 'Emily St. John Mandel. I still have her 3rd book yet to read...

  5. 4 out of 5

    Neil

    I have a message for Emily St. John Mandel. My message is, "Please write another book soon!". I've now read all four of her novels and they are all excellent. She is an expert story teller. I guess a sort of "trademark" for her is that her stories jump around in time, but the details revealed are always perfectly paced and fit perfectly with the story without seeming forced. For example, in this book we read "Anton was drinking wine with two of his staff: Dahlia, who he would liked to drink with I have a message for Emily St. John Mandel. My message is, "Please write another book soon!". I've now read all four of her novels and they are all excellent. She is an expert story teller. I guess a sort of "trademark" for her is that her stories jump around in time, but the details revealed are always perfectly paced and fit perfectly with the story without seeming forced. For example, in this book we read "Anton was drinking wine with two of his staff: Dahlia, who he would liked to drink with more often if he weren't already engaged, and Elena, his secretary, who he'd been secretly in love with since he'd met her under criminal circumstances two and a half years earlier.". Criminal circumstances? Who doesn't want to know more about that? Other things are gradually revealed which I won't detail as it is best to discover them for yourself as you read the story. But we move around in time and slowly the pieces all come together. I love the pages where you think "Aha - that's why he did that half a book ago - it all makes sense". Such clever plotting and story construction. The writing, too, is often very beautiful. It's not fancy, but it is very evocative. For me, although not for everyone according to some of the reviews, her characters are very real and believable. I'm sure you could pick flaws in this book if you wanted to. But I enjoyed the story too much to want to waste energy doing that. So, 5 stars. Now I need to go back and re-read Station Eleven as I feel pretty sure I've under-rated that!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Micheal Fraser

    When I first read Last Night in Montreal I said to myself this (and books like this) is why I became a bookseller in the first place. Well, after having finished The Singer's Gun I have to say it again. When one finds a new author who writes a book you lose yourself in and follows it up with something as good or better, well, this makes life worth living. Begining in a beaucratic hell worthy of Kafka, its turns into something wholely unexpected and surprising. To speak of the plot, I think, would When I first read Last Night in Montreal I said to myself this (and books like this) is why I became a bookseller in the first place. Well, after having finished The Singer's Gun I have to say it again. When one finds a new author who writes a book you lose yourself in and follows it up with something as good or better, well, this makes life worth living. Begining in a beaucratic hell worthy of Kafka, its turns into something wholely unexpected and surprising. To speak of the plot, I think, would deprive a reader something of the surprise one gets when the lives of these people unfold, revealing their pasts and their present occupations. Never-the-less, it is a wonderful book that I couldn't put down about people trying to find themselves a home, somewhere to belong. And they find it not in a place or a job but in a person and a cat. The best books tend to reach out and speak to you and you alone and these people spoke to me. Their concerns about jobs and the soul destroying nature of the workaday world, their quiet desperation about what life has dealt out to them and the hope at the end struck a cord deep within me. It is one of those quiet books that speaks loudly of the human condition and of two people caught up in it all.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    I needed to sleep on this one before commenting. When I read the very first review of The Singer’s Gun, I knew it was a book I wanted to read. Words like half truths, exploration of moral compass, suspenseful, were enough to add this to my TBR pile. Then The Singer’s Gun started showing up on some Best of 2010 lists and I knew I had to move it up on my list. The Singer’s Gun was not quite what I was expecting. It is not a crime novel in the usual sense. Rather than sum up the plot let me tell you I needed to sleep on this one before commenting. When I read the very first review of The Singer’s Gun, I knew it was a book I wanted to read. Words like half truths, exploration of moral compass, suspenseful, were enough to add this to my TBR pile. Then The Singer’s Gun started showing up on some Best of 2010 lists and I knew I had to move it up on my list. The Singer’s Gun was not quite what I was expecting. It is not a crime novel in the usual sense. Rather than sum up the plot let me tell you what for me was the strongest element of "like". The exploration of what makes someone good is the fundamental thought that I will keep from this read. I'd love to discuss what constitutes someone as being a good person, making this a good selection for book discussion. The hype of book reviews, awards, etc. often makes it hard for a book to live up to my expectations. I liked this; maybe not as much as some but enough to seek out Mandel’s first book, The Last Night in Montreal.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Katie Lumsden

    Brilliant as always - Emily St John Mandel writes so beautifully, so perfectly, and the pacing and tone throughout is so poised and well thought-out. Her characterisation and the subtly of her writing is as strong here as in her other books - I highly recommend!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Liisa

    3.5/5 Station Eleven is one of my favorite novels, so I had been wanting to read something else from Emily St. John Mandel for a long time now. I ended up choosing The Singer’s Gun simply because it had the highest rating on Goodreads. It’s extremely different from Station Eleven, but brilliant in its own way, apart from the ending which I found to be really anticlimactic. The jumps in time and in view point are executed skillfully, the main character is utterly fascinating and even though I foun 3.5/5 Station Eleven is one of my favorite novels, so I had been wanting to read something else from Emily St. John Mandel for a long time now. I ended up choosing The Singer’s Gun simply because it had the highest rating on Goodreads. It’s extremely different from Station Eleven, but brilliant in its own way, apart from the ending which I found to be really anticlimactic. The jumps in time and in view point are executed skillfully, the main character is utterly fascinating and even though I found the mystery element quite weak, the story pulled me in. I will continue going through Mandel’s books. Her writing skills are amazing and she constructs her stories in the most interesting way.

  10. 4 out of 5

    The Captain

    Ahoy there me mateys! I adored station eleven and so I thought I would read another book by this wonderful author. Jenny @ readingtheend stated in me comments section of me review of station eleven that “The Singer’s Gun is my other favorite of her books — it’s way way far behind Station Eleven in awesomeness, but it has a similarly intricate plot.” So I listened to Jenny and read this book. And aye, I enjoyed it immensely. This was off the charts (i.e. a non sci-fi, fantasy, or YA title) and was Ahoy there me mateys! I adored station eleven and so I thought I would read another book by this wonderful author. Jenny @ readingtheend stated in me comments section of me review of station eleven that “The Singer’s Gun is my other favorite of her books — it’s way way far behind Station Eleven in awesomeness, but it has a similarly intricate plot.” So I listened to Jenny and read this book. And aye, I enjoyed it immensely. This was off the charts (i.e. a non sci-fi, fantasy, or YA title) and was described as a murder mystery. Well there is a murder and an investigator but this is not a who-dun-it tale. What ye do get is the same type of character exploration that made me fall in love with the author’s writing style in the first place. This novel follows Anton Waker whose family is part of an organized crime scheme to sell stolen goods. All Anton has ever wanted was to clean up his act and have a normal job on the right side of the law. He is living this dream when his past comes back to haunt him and ruin his attempt at normalcy. In watching Anton’s life dissolve, ye be introduced to an odd host of people. The story rambles in a delightful way wherein ye have no idea where the story is going, the people are kinda crazy and slightly unlikable, and yet it be mesmerizing. And of course, as Jenny says, it is an intricate plot. I loved how the strings were weaved together at the end. Even though I was hesitant about all of the characters in the beginning, I eventually was won over enough to be happy for the consequences portrayed in the end. I found the ending more satisfying than I would have thought. It was a quick read and I avidly turned the pages. I appreciate the detailed plot but it is the character portrayal that makes me want to read another book by this author. And the explanation for the title entertained me. I am glad I read station eleven first but am extremely grateful for me matey’s recommendation of this great book for me second read. Side note: I still think the author’s name is delicious! Arrr! Check out me other reviews at https://thecaptainsquartersblog.wordp...

  11. 4 out of 5

    Judy

    I just love this author! I wish she wrote more novels though of course I don't want to rush her. She is young and hopefully will get to keep publishing books for years to come. This is her second, after Last Night in Montreal. Her third, The Lola Quartet, will be released in May and I can hardly wait. Both books so far have been essentially mysteries but Ms Mandel puts her own signature on the genre. In The Singer's Gun, a title which indeed does name the murder weapon, Anton is the son of crimin I just love this author! I wish she wrote more novels though of course I don't want to rush her. She is young and hopefully will get to keep publishing books for years to come. This is her second, after Last Night in Montreal. Her third, The Lola Quartet, will be released in May and I can hardly wait. Both books so far have been essentially mysteries but Ms Mandel puts her own signature on the genre. In The Singer's Gun, a title which indeed does name the murder weapon, Anton is the son of criminals. He has gone straight but has the oddest relationship to his parents and a nefarious cousin. He is married to a deeply neurotic cellist and his criminal past will not let him go. In less than 300 pages, the lives of these people are revealed in a manner as engrossing as any thriller. But what I love about Mandel's writing is her characters. They are the fractured, broken people so often found in contemporary literature yet by some authorly magic she makes me love them. I desperately want to know each one's story; what made them who they are. I know going in that none will have a truly happy ending but after two novels, I now know that she will allow an occasional character to escape his or her destiny, even if only marginally. The Singer's Gun is awash in the various vicious crimes of today. By putting a face and a personality to the criminals, Mandel makes it almost possible to forgive them because of the forces that have driven them. The late John Gardner wrote pages about the role of morality in fiction, back in the 1970s when we thought morality had a chance and before he died while driving drunk on his motorcycle. Emily St John demonstrates that any chance of relying on a moral universe is long gone and that it is fairly random as to whether any sort of morality pays off. Just before reading The Singer's Gun, I had been contemplating how identity, in my family, amongst my friends and associates, even in myself, is hardly ever what appears on the surface. I wondered how many people have anyone to whom they can reveal their true thoughts and emotions. Mandel's characters are examples of this disconnect, the vast gulf between the outward persona and the inward despair, sorrows, and depression of human beings. She is not Dostoesvsky (yet) but she comes as close as anyone I have been reading lately.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Edan

    I really enjoyed this book! The prose is slick and clear as glass, and I loved the non-linear, mosaic-like structure, and the way Mandel presented a character's memories with a simple phrase, word or name, followed by a colon, and then a description of such phrase, word or person. It was so elegant, even sexy. Lots of sexiness in this book, guys: naked girls, singers with guns, recording devices, criminal families, Italian islands and payphones, cats eating tuna in airport bathrooms... At first, I really enjoyed this book! The prose is slick and clear as glass, and I loved the non-linear, mosaic-like structure, and the way Mandel presented a character's memories with a simple phrase, word or name, followed by a colon, and then a description of such phrase, word or person. It was so elegant, even sexy. Lots of sexiness in this book, guys: naked girls, singers with guns, recording devices, criminal families, Italian islands and payphones, cats eating tuna in airport bathrooms... At first, I wasn't sure how I'd feel about the novel, as its premise felt a touch absurd/whimsical for my taste. Its main character, after all, is sent to wait out his work days in the 'dead files' room of the building's basement, and he just lives with it. But as the story gathered history and weight, I got really invested in the world and found it believable, if a little technicolored and poetic. And, in the end, I loved these qualities of the book, as it made everything feel heightened and lovely and deep in the way our lives often aren't in their quotidian accuracy. Sometimes, the book emphasized too much its themes, namely: work, feeling lost, disappearing. But I also enjoyed these themes, so I'm not sure how they might otherwise be handled. And perhaps this tight-grip on the deeper subject is a byproduct of the taut quality of the storytelling, which was really appealing. Seriously, I could not put this book down. And it was beautifully written to boot! My only real complaint with this book are its double prepositions. They drove me crazy! "She turned to him and pulled her nightgown off over her head" (84) would be so much graceful as, "She turned to him and pulled her nightgown over her head" And "Elena began walking forward across the room..." (202) would be sleeker as "Elena began walking across the room" and "Climbed up onto the breakwater rocks" (225) could be, "Climbed onto the breakwater rocks..." These double prepositions were all over the text, and my neurotic language-reader winced at each one. I am sure Mandel's next book, sans all the unnecessary prepositions, will be a masterpiece! Emily St. John Mandel is such a talent. Read this book and get pulled into this mysterious sexy bright dark world!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Irene Ziegler

    This is a read for a book club. The more I think about it, the more divided my reaction, a sure promise of a lively discussion. The book examines illegal immigration from the point of view of a man whose family profits by selling fake social security numbers and passports to desperate foreigners. Anton's job is to deliver the packages and accept payment from the illegal recipients. Because Anton wants to get out of the business, we're supposed to like him. Further, he has sympathetic feelings fo This is a read for a book club. The more I think about it, the more divided my reaction, a sure promise of a lively discussion. The book examines illegal immigration from the point of view of a man whose family profits by selling fake social security numbers and passports to desperate foreigners. Anton's job is to deliver the packages and accept payment from the illegal recipients. Because Anton wants to get out of the business, we're supposed to like him. Further, he has sympathetic feelings for the people he's "helping." Plus, his fiance calls off their wedding twice! Who couldn't feel sorry for that guy! Finally, after several years, Anton finally says enough is enough, a decision that pits him against Aria, an adopted family member who organizes Anton's drops and collections. So from this POV, we have a sympathetic look at illegal immigration. But if we see Anton as a criminal, which he is, an unfaithful husband, which he is, and a conspirator in a capital crime, which he is, his good-guy veneer falls away, and his seemingly innocuous crimes have very dire consequences, indeed. Yes, he thinks he is giving a future to desperate people, but ultimately wants only one thing: to get away with it, and live happily off the radar with his girlfriend in an Italian vacation paradise. So this book pulled in two directions; a sign of a provocative novel, and a skillfully written one. The author did some technical things I'd never seen before. The title's meaning, for instance doesn't become clear until the story's climax which plays out "off stage;" that is, we don't get to see what is happening; instead, we see Anton see it. We are outside the scene, removed from the action. Daring, but it worked. The author is also skilled at weaving flashbacks into the narrative so that past and present seem to meld, dreamlike. In the end, I enjoyed The Singer's Gun, but it didn't bowl me over, and after all the good things I'd heard about it, I wanted it to. I almost gave it 3 stars, but I would enjoy discussing this book, and for that, it gets a 4.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Girls Gone Reading

    We are told early on in The Singer’s Gun that everything is holy. Anton’s mother told him that, “God is the universe,” and from then on Anton looked at the trees, the stars, the train stations all as holy places of creation. Emily St. John Mandel is such a phenomenal writer that I started to see everything in her novel as holy as well. The Singer’s Gun is book that only could have been written now, after 9/11, after the war on terror, after the breaches by our government in order to keep us “free We are told early on in The Singer’s Gun that everything is holy. Anton’s mother told him that, “God is the universe,” and from then on Anton looked at the trees, the stars, the train stations all as holy places of creation. Emily St. John Mandel is such a phenomenal writer that I started to see everything in her novel as holy as well. The Singer’s Gun is book that only could have been written now, after 9/11, after the war on terror, after the breaches by our government in order to keep us “free”. Anton Waker gets caught up in all of this. He reminded me of Jay Gatsby-searching fruitlessly for the American Dream that was never created for someone like him. On an allegorical level, I completely bough into the plot of The Singer’s Gun. On the literal, however, there was one part that still bothers me. Without giving too much away there is one section where blackmailing became involved in the story. I found some of the characters’ reactions unbelievably and obnoxious. Still, in a book as beautifully written as this one, that seems like a small price to pay. In the end Mandel created a book that simultaneously shows a world that is holy and unholy, truthful and full of lies. The Singer’s Gun is a book that I will not soon forget, and it is one that I wish I had picked up sooner.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Emelie Gaughan

    Emily St John Mandel is officially the author I can't get enough of right now! Her newest book Station Eleven blew me away and I immediately wanted to read the rest of her works. This one was a mash up of genres to me. It's unfolds much like a mystery as you discover more and more about characters and their motives. It reads like a thriller, and even though there isn't any particular plot point that totally shocks you, you find yourself continually turning pages to see what's next. Overall, it wa Emily St John Mandel is officially the author I can't get enough of right now! Her newest book Station Eleven blew me away and I immediately wanted to read the rest of her works. This one was a mash up of genres to me. It's unfolds much like a mystery as you discover more and more about characters and their motives. It reads like a thriller, and even though there isn't any particular plot point that totally shocks you, you find yourself continually turning pages to see what's next. Overall, it was just plain good! It focuses on Anton Waker and how decisions his family makes affect him as he grows up, then his struggle with the morality of those decisions. He must decide how to extricate himself from these situations so he can live his life the way he chooses. I wouldn't put is book in my "favorites" list, but I really enjoyed reading it. I feel like the best part about Emily St John Mandel is how every character she creates is so well fleshed out, and then how these characters all overlap into each other's lives. She weaves stories together with so much thought and for this reason, she is one of my personal favorites.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    3 1/2, rounded up to 4 because of her always top notch writing and because I'm a fan girl. This is the 3rd (of 4?) ESJM books I've read, and I adored it just a little less than the other two. I'm not sure where this falls in the chronology of her novels. Her distinct style is there, and her writing is lovely as ever, but there was less certainty in the plot and not as much depth in the characters as in her other work. I still recommend it, and I still plan to read The Lola Quartet. She's become 3 1/2, rounded up to 4 because of her always top notch writing and because I'm a fan girl. This is the 3rd (of 4?) ESJM books I've read, and I adored it just a little less than the other two. I'm not sure where this falls in the chronology of her novels. Her distinct style is there, and her writing is lovely as ever, but there was less certainty in the plot and not as much depth in the characters as in her other work. I still recommend it, and I still plan to read The Lola Quartet. She's become a favorite since I first discovered her through Station Eleven and I hope she keeps up the pace. I can't wait to see what she does next.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Patrick Brown

    I didn't think it was possible for Mandel to best her dizzyingly great debut novel, but this account of a family caught up in a dirty business is superb. Again, she excels at structure and pacing, moving forward and back in time seamlessly. Highly recommended for fans of the second season of The Wire.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Marianne Robin-Tani

    While I loved Ms. St. John Mandel's "Station Eleven," but this book disappointed me. The characters weren't engaging or interesting, I never cared about them and the story didn't go anywhere. I kept reading, thinking something exciting would eventually happen, but nothing ever did.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    “Sometimes regular channels aren’t open to you, and then you have to improvise. Find your own way out. Think about it, Anton. What does it take to succeed in this world?” “It’s never easy. You have to be creative sometimes. You have to make things happen for yourself.” What does it mean to be a good person? Can you justify a tiny bit of crime, maybe by simply looking the other way, if your intent is good? Are you saving the world if you ignoring your own child? The Singer’s Gun is an incredible no “Sometimes regular channels aren’t open to you, and then you have to improvise. Find your own way out. Think about it, Anton. What does it take to succeed in this world?” “It’s never easy. You have to be creative sometimes. You have to make things happen for yourself.” What does it mean to be a good person? Can you justify a tiny bit of crime, maybe by simply looking the other way, if your intent is good? Are you saving the world if you ignoring your own child? The Singer’s Gun is an incredible novel, one that has consumed me since I began reading it. Tension and suspense are mixed in with significant questions regarding morality and family honor in a world changed by 9/11. Anton is the protagonist, a man who wishes to wash his hands of his family’s criminal links, but finds that doing that requires its own sort of dishonesty. This novel discusses the complex links that connect us to our past and lead to our future. How desperate do we have to be to make a new beginning? The novel makes you consider all these things without ever getting preachy or dull. The stride is brisk, and the characters are all unique and compelling. As in real life, very few people are completely good or completely bad: this explores all the mysterious layers and inconsistencies of everyday life. Anton is appealing: after all, he adopts a one-eyed cat and shows up at his job reliably, long after he’s been quietly fired. Yet he’s lost, gripped by an inertia brought on by not wanting to do wrong but not having the courage to do “right”. What I really enjoyed, besides the completely unique characters, was that the plot continually rotates, changing viewpoints, so that you can observe scenes through another characters eyes and thus see their own justifications. It complicates the drama and adds tension. The author subtly weaves little threads of foreshadowing here and there to add another dimension. Some seemingly unrelated minor events appear that actually serve to rough up and texture the identities of the characters. My only minor irritation was that the character Elena kept "looking at her reflection" in the window over and over...I don't know why I got hung up on that but in most of the scenes she appears in, there is some sort of comment on her looking at the glass. I thought it was a nod to something about her character, something that would present itself later, but I don't think it did. It was just a phrase that seemed to get overused in an otherwise perfectly written story. I had heard raves about the author before: now I know why! I spent most of today’s unusual heat wave parked in front of a fan with The Singer’s Gun, and was sad to see it end. I should have savored it more! This one would be ripe for a sequel, because the moral ambiguities can never be completely resolved.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Liviu

    while not as accomplished as the superb Station Eleven which brought the author to my attention and made me get all her novels to date, The Singer's Gun is a page turner that one cannot put down, full of interesting characters - most notably Anton and his desperate quest for "normality", though cutting corners and having a troubled past may catch with him at any moment, and Elena, a Canadian illegal (!!) who also wants a regular life; the concerned US policewoman (ok State Dept investigator into while not as accomplished as the superb Station Eleven which brought the author to my attention and made me get all her novels to date, The Singer's Gun is a page turner that one cannot put down, full of interesting characters - most notably Anton and his desperate quest for "normality", though cutting corners and having a troubled past may catch with him at any moment, and Elena, a Canadian illegal (!!) who also wants a regular life; the concerned US policewoman (ok State Dept investigator into smuggling of illegal aliens and fake id's) and the hard gangster Aria, cousin of Anton, are more cliched and a bit over the top, while the plot has way too many coincidences and stuff that seems a bit illogical (how his company treats Anton, the way the agent runs her investigation, why Elena who is a Canadian native, simply cannot reinvent herself in Toronto or Vancouver if her life falls to pieces here and she has to leave NY and the US, as it's not like Toronto is her native Northwestern Territories wilderness but a modern and accomplished city as almost any in the US, choice that undocumented immigrants from poorer places simply do not have), but that is par for the course for thrillers and one reason i rarely read them unless there are strong reasons like here. The structure is also good, again not as accomplished and complex as in Station Eleven, but on the same lines, alternating past with present, slowly dripping revelations... A very good ending - both open and close enough for satisfaction - and of course the writing magic itself and a book I again heartily recommend

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sam Reaves

    A New York yuppie, the only honest member of his dodgy family, is blackmailed into playing bagman for a cousin's shady deal while on his honeymoon on an Italian island. The marriage is the first thing that succumbs; other extinctions follow. There is considerable backstory, involving furtive love affairs, doomed relationships and federal investigations. I can't quite make up my mind about this book; it's reasonably entertaining, smoothly written, and menacing enough in the end. It's original and A New York yuppie, the only honest member of his dodgy family, is blackmailed into playing bagman for a cousin's shady deal while on his honeymoon on an Italian island. The marriage is the first thing that succumbs; other extinctions follow. There is considerable backstory, involving furtive love affairs, doomed relationships and federal investigations. I can't quite make up my mind about this book; it's reasonably entertaining, smoothly written, and menacing enough in the end. It's original and quirky, too, taking us down interesting byways in character and setting. So why didn't I like it more? Not sure. It takes a little getting used to because of multiple converging story lines and some chronological skipping around, but that's not really a problem. I think ultimately I wanted a hero, and there really isn't one in this book. And the title... A discussion would involve spoilers, so I will just say that I'm not sure it bears the weight the author evidently wanted it to. Anyway, not bad, but not really terrific, either.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Laura de Leon

    The Singer's Gun was a 4.5 star book for me. The story was a look at a young man's life, complicated because of the lies he and his family lived by. Secrets were uncovered, and new webs were woven by the people nearby to take their place. There are aspects of a thriller, of good guys and bad guys and guns and pursuit. But even more than a thriller, this was a personal tale-- How does one person escape the web he was born into, particularly if he uses the tools of his upbringing to stage his escap The Singer's Gun was a 4.5 star book for me. The story was a look at a young man's life, complicated because of the lies he and his family lived by. Secrets were uncovered, and new webs were woven by the people nearby to take their place. There are aspects of a thriller, of good guys and bad guys and guns and pursuit. But even more than a thriller, this was a personal tale-- How does one person escape the web he was born into, particularly if he uses the tools of his upbringing to stage his escape. The characters were (mostly) complex, likeable and interesting. Anton in particular, of course, but I also really liked Elena. Her one major deception (doing business with Anton) draws her into his web, and she has to deal with the consequences, and then the ramifications of those events. I was intrigued by Anton's family. The only character I'm not sure about in Anton's cousin Aria-- I can't decide if she was too simple, or too complex!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Charlotte Jones

    This is not the sort of book I would usually gravitate towards but I'm so glad that I have read it. Mandel's writing is just as simple yet beautiful as it is in Station Eleven but with a haunting undertone that leaves the reader eager to read on. The plot itself is intricate and told in a non-linear style. This mixing of the characters' timelines adds to the mystery and reveals small details slowly, building up to the bigger picture as the story progresses. Overall this was a short but detailed n This is not the sort of book I would usually gravitate towards but I'm so glad that I have read it. Mandel's writing is just as simple yet beautiful as it is in Station Eleven but with a haunting undertone that leaves the reader eager to read on. The plot itself is intricate and told in a non-linear style. This mixing of the characters' timelines adds to the mystery and reveals small details slowly, building up to the bigger picture as the story progresses. Overall this was a short but detailed novel about family, crime, lies and betrayal that really sucked me in. It was one of those books that I was thinking about when I was away from it. The only problem I had with it was that the ending was exactly how I wanted it to turn out but I can't help but feel like there could have been more. Having said that, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and am looking forward to discussing it as part of the book club next month. 5 out of 5 stars!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Dawn

    It was a bit boring, which seems such a generic thing to say about a book, so I shall try to expand. It should have been more intriguing really, there is a bit of a mystery to the characters. Who they are, what they do, why they do it. Somehow there is no spark though, no life so to speak, the characters are 2D representations of something that might possibly have been interesting, if fleshed out more. These characters seem to live their lives by mistake, they float along and do their thing with It was a bit boring, which seems such a generic thing to say about a book, so I shall try to expand. It should have been more intriguing really, there is a bit of a mystery to the characters. Who they are, what they do, why they do it. Somehow there is no spark though, no life so to speak, the characters are 2D representations of something that might possibly have been interesting, if fleshed out more. These characters seem to live their lives by mistake, they float along and do their thing without any thought or purpose, it was very, very annoying. The ambiguous ending was also quite disappointing, maybe this is because the story was partially thriller and/or mystery style and I'm used to have a conclusion to this style of book but this one didn't work out at all. I think that as this is my third book by this author, and none of them have been rated very highly, I can safely say that I won't be reading any more.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Piepie

    Really curious and intriguing book. I couldn't put it down! The main character, Anton, receives the "singer's gun" only sometime after the midpoint of the story. Again Emily St. John Mandel's beautiful writing is on full display -- sentences and fragments so well written that I read and re-read them just to take them all in. She packs a lot into a book that is not quite 300 pages. I've read her books out of order (as far as the order in which they were published), and I see similarities between Really curious and intriguing book. I couldn't put it down! The main character, Anton, receives the "singer's gun" only sometime after the midpoint of the story. Again Emily St. John Mandel's beautiful writing is on full display -- sentences and fragments so well written that I read and re-read them just to take them all in. She packs a lot into a book that is not quite 300 pages. I've read her books out of order (as far as the order in which they were published), and I see similarities between this one and her debut (the first one I read), Last Night in Montreal -- even The Lola Quartet, too. I am a devoted fan of her writing, and I feel sorry for those who haven't yet discovered her. Sad that I've read all her novels currently published, but looking forward to the next one!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jordan

    I had read Station Eleven and loved it, so I was very excited to start this book. And it was great. Emily St. John Mandel's prose is beautiful and wholly engrossing, and I loved that this book didn't seem to fit entirely into any one genre. I connected with the characters, and while the whole situation seemed a little unreal at times it didn't affect my enjoyment of the book. It wasn't a page-turner; I did not feel the need to read it constantly. But while I was reading hours seemed to fly by in I had read Station Eleven and loved it, so I was very excited to start this book. And it was great. Emily St. John Mandel's prose is beautiful and wholly engrossing, and I loved that this book didn't seem to fit entirely into any one genre. I connected with the characters, and while the whole situation seemed a little unreal at times it didn't affect my enjoyment of the book. It wasn't a page-turner; I did not feel the need to read it constantly. But while I was reading hours seemed to fly by in seconds, and I'd have read 100 pages before I realized that I'd even started.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Margaret

    It'll be a few days before I can rate this book. All I can say right now is that I think it's just as good as Station Eleven (the author's most recent book and the first book of hers that I have read) but is so very different in tone. The style is similar: moving back and forth in time, the author brings together the threads of a story. Where Station Eleven is charming, this is bleak. But still worth reading.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Amy Cloud

    Complex and interesting, but ultimately it didn’t resonate with me like Station Eleven did.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ian

    Emily St. John Mandel's intricately plotted second novel finds her hero, Anton Waker, attempting to escape from a family that makes a comfortable living through unlawful enterprise. His parents deal in stolen goods. Anton, for his part, worked for years with his cousin Aria to provide illegal immigrants with forged passports and other documentation. But Anton was never cut out for life as a criminal—he’s too sensitive and he has a conscience. While in his twenties, his attempt to leave the famil Emily St. John Mandel's intricately plotted second novel finds her hero, Anton Waker, attempting to escape from a family that makes a comfortable living through unlawful enterprise. His parents deal in stolen goods. Anton, for his part, worked for years with his cousin Aria to provide illegal immigrants with forged passports and other documentation. But Anton was never cut out for life as a criminal—he’s too sensitive and he has a conscience. While in his twenties, his attempt to leave the family business landed him in a well-paying job with a water system consulting company in a downtown Manhattan office tower. The problem is, to get his foot in the door he used his skills from his previous trade to conjure up some impressive credentials and a Harvard diploma, a scam that has come back to haunt him. Mandel allows Anton’s situation to evolve gradually, over several chapters, while she fills in the blanks with flashbacks. At work, when his deception comes to light, Anton, though kept on the payroll, is relieved of his responsibilities and banished to a vacant office. Perplexed and bored at work, Anton is also buffeted at home by the shifting whims and moods of his fiancé Sophie, who has called off their wedding twice, at the last minute. But eventually they do get married, and head off to Italy for their honeymoon. Perplexed by Sophie, who is often cold and harshly judgmental, Anton had been conducting a casually erotic affair with Elena, a previous customer, a Canadian living in the US illegally using papers Anton provided and who also worked as his secretary at the water company. But Anton’s troubles are only beginning. When Aria decides Anton would be useful for one last deal, she persuades him to conduct a transaction while in Italy—giving him no choice: if he doesn’t, she’ll tell Sophie about his fake Harvard diploma. And to top it all off, a federal agent is on the case, tracking Aria’s and Anton’s illegal activities. Mandel’s ingenious novel is every bit as complicated as it sounds, but to her credit she manages the individual strands of her plot with skill and grace, moving everything briskly along while keeping it all from getting hopelessly tangled up. As the reader nears the end, the twists and turns come in quick succession. Granted, some of details strain credibility. But Mandel’s empathy for her characters and clever handling of her material ensures a satisfying resolution to Anton’s story.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Katie Lantukh

    I was captivated. I felt like I just melted into this story- I felt the pull Anton was experiencing, I felt the sweltering heat and the escape of Italy. I read this in less than 24 hours and am so happy I had it stored on my kindle! What a treasure to find right when I needed a book!

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