Decided to read this book after watching the movie "limitless" adapted from the book "the dark fields" by Alan Glynn. I often prefer to read the book first but only became aware there was one after enjoying the movie and so decided to to make an exception and also check out the book.
I have just finished reading it and I am glad I did, it is different in many ways to the movie, certain details differ and not just the obvious expansion of storyline.
The main character Eddie is a down on his luck writer when he meets his ex brother in law who gives him a pill that enhances his brain power. Armed with this new pill Eddie is well "limitless", he can learn new things in a fraction of the time previously and his confidence and motivation improves beyond all recognition.
It is the story that we all wish was true, such a pill would no doubt improve all our lives. This concept is very interesting and I found it gripped me from the start, the pace is fast and the dialogue between characters exceptional.
It is one I recommend for all thriller lovers and even if you have seen the film it is a must read as it expands the story a lot.
The Dark Fields, the debut novel from Dubliner and sometime New Yorker Alan Glynn, is an intensely readable, taut and compelling book. The pace is fast and relentless and grabs your attention from the very first page.
Eddie is enjoying a life of amiable mediocrity. He's an educated under-achiever working in publishing and boasting a rather slothful attitude, a pot belly and a nicotine addiction. In other words, he's a character that many readers can empathise with from day one.
Then his life is turned around overnight as he stumbles across a smart drug - MDT-48 - that delivers extraordinary intelligence, focus and drive in a single chemical compound. He starts by tidying up his slovenly flat and alphabetising his CD collection. Then he finds he can assimilate information with amazing speed, memorize entire books verbatim and learn a language in days. He can survive with virtually no sleep or food and even develops an intense charisma that makes him socially and sexually irresistible.
The result is an explosive, dizzying upward spiral, a journey that takes him to wealth, status and power. Before long he is earning impossibly high returns through stock market day trading and ends up orchestrating mega-mergers with Wall Street masters of the universe. Then he starts having black-outs, hallucinations and uncontrolled, compulsive actions. And of course from those Olympian heights, the only way is down...
The basic concept of "smart drugs" bestowing temporary superhuman powers - but at a great cost - is hardly new, since this was a staple of 1940s golden age science fiction (e.g. David A. Kyle's "Golden Nemesis" in 1941). Equally the literally idea of drugs as trigger or accompaniment to violence goes back at least as far as Anthony Burgess and "A Clockwork Orange". If you're into classical archetypes, "The Dark Fields" is yet another retelling of the "Icarus" story. The hero is poised for greatness but in his quest for success flies too close to the sun, with predictably calamitous consequences.
However "The Dark Fields" is uniquely gripping, addictive and compelling - offering a new and modern twist on the genre. It is at heart a searing social commentary on turn-of-the-21st century New York and its money-worshipping, day-trading and investment banking culture. Its critique of warmongering politicians also places it firmly in the modern world. The social critique of the novel is implicit in its title, "The Dark Fields" - a quote from "The Great Gatsby" cited at the start of the novel. "He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night".
This is not a weighty or intellectual novel, but is well-written,intelligent (there are some literary references) and naturally cinematic. It offers a searing social commentary on turn-of-the-century New York in the style of "American Psycho", while also exploring the pioneering territory of the films such as Lawnmower Man. The style is conversational, fast-paced and it really does feel as if you are watching a movie. It comes as no surprise to learn that a film adaptation is in the works.
The novel is not flawless. Some plot twists, especially the gangland murders, are a little contrived and formulaic. Realism is not however the point of the novel. Frustratingly, the ending poses as many questions as answers. The grand conspiracy linking Eddie's predicament to the chemical-industrial complex and the warmongering Defence Secretary is never fully outlined. Some plot possibilities, such as Eddie's crush on young Manhattan socialite Ginny van Loon, are left tantalisingly unexplored. These are minor faults, though, in a compelling novel.
The Dark Fields is a brilliant encapsulation (no pun intended) of New York at the tail end of the Nineties - a day-trading, gold-digging, dotcom-booming city with a voracious obsession for money, sex and power. This novel is just as searingly addictive as the drug - the reader is sucked in to the plot. Who can resist the tantalising promise of learning Italian in an hour, accumulating a stock market fortune in a week, or being irresistible to the most desirable partners? Anyone who wants to live the life of a rock star vicariously will love this book.
The novel also explores some interesting philosophical territory. The concept that reality - from the contours of Italian history to stock market patterns - can be perceived as a ordered, chemical structure is an appealing one. It's a similar concept to the streams of green code in the Matrix and works very well.
Quite frankly, "The Dark Fields" is the debut novel I would give my hind teeth to write. Now does anyone have any MDT-48 they can lend me?
**Pricing & Format**
I picked up my copy at Tesco back in 2004. The novel, which is 341 pages long, is currently available on Amazon for £6.99. I like the front cover design featuring an aspirin-type pill and the Manhattan skyline (with reflection), although the strap-line "One pill could change your world" is a little cheesy. The novel was as addictive as MDT-48. I read it from cover to cover in one weekend and have re-read it at least three times subsequently.
(c) Paul/EasternStar 2008