Phil: A few years ago, Jonas Jonasson scored a hit with his book The hundred year old man who fell out of a window and disappeared. Now the lead character, Alan Karlsson is back.
In the first book, much of the action was played in flashback with stories telling how Karlsson had travelled the world, largely by accident, meeting pretty much every famous person over his lifetime. He stumbled into situations, often altering the world without really meaning to.
This might remind you of the film Forest Gump, Forest always being in shot during pivotal moments in history.
It all reminded me more of the Da Vinci code. Turn the page and the plot has summoned up yet another famous face to move things along. Over 100 years, Alan had certainly got around a bit and the idea of slamming all these notable names into one story was fun.
However, the new book takes place over a much shorter time, but with no fewer “characters”.
We get to meet Donald Trump, Lim Jong-un, Vladimir Putin and Angela Merkel. To make matters more convincing, real-life history has been employed with Karlsson involved in uranium smuggling while the big players, especially Putin, control the world like a chess game.
Jonasson uses his characters and the story to satirise the world and it sort of works. At the end, everything becomes a little heavy-handed and a bit miserable, but not unrealistically so. Cynics might suggest this “never planned” second book has appeared because the publishers put their author in an arm lock until he promised to write it, but I’m inclined to believe the introduction where he says there was a lot to say. A bit anyway. Maybe the appearance of a Mercedes catalogue helped too.
The story is full of cliches, unlikely conincidence, and very minor characters who have a very bad time of it. This might be realistic, but people being collateral damage always makes me feel uncomfortable. I know they aren’t real, but I’m stupid this way.
Despite the reservations, it’s a fun read, especially if you pay any attention to the news and can spot the events being satirised.