[Tom] McCarthy’s new novel, C, is actually his third; but because he published his second novel, Men in Space, just before Zadie Smith drew attention to [his début] Remainder, C is the first to appear in the shadow of Remainder’s success. It must be said up front, though, that it is by comparison a disappointment. Whereas Remainder made a virtue of its obsessive austerity — “it works by accumulation and repetition,” wrote Smith, “closing in on its subject in ever-decreasing revolutions, like a trauma victim circling the blank horror of the traumatic event” — C plays fast and loose: it is elaborate and extravagant and continually expanding in scope from the first word to the very last. That said, however, this too must be clear: if C disappoints when compared to Remainder, it is, like Remainder, a triumph when compared to the pedestrian novels that continue to dominate our literary landscape.
My review of Tom McCarthy’s C is online at Killings, the Kill Your Darlings blog.