THE DISCRETE CHARM OF CHARLIE MONK by David Ambrose
Kirkus Star

THE DISCRETE CHARM OF CHARLIE MONK

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The Great Ambrose returns (Superstition, 1998) for another paranormal thriller that may lack the philosophical darkness of Philip K. Dick but has all of Dick’s endless identity inversions and reversals.

Reader Warning: This novel may be unreviewable without giving away plot points that the normal (or unprofessional) reader would not want to know. The title refers to Luis Buñuel’s strange and seductively surreal The Discrete Charm of the Bourgeoisie, about a group of fashionables who mill around a dining room, try to sit down to dinner, and never make it, though all Ambrose takes from that movie are Buñuel’s strangeness and surrealismo. James Bond can take a backseat to Charlie Monk, who has the fluidity and speed of a dreamBond. In fact, for a while, the reader wonders at the outrageous abilities of Monk—an agent for a governmental organization so secret that it doesn’t exist—as when he brings off supremely dangerous and difficult missions with dreamlike ease. As in Dick’s Blade Runner, we wonder as well if Monk’s childhood memories haven’t been implanted: he has such difficulty bringing some of them back to mind, especially the face of beloved fellow orphan Kathy. Even so, when off-mission for long periods, Charlie beds an endless stable of beauties (sometimes two at once), drives his Porsche, and paints landscapes that a strange little dealer buys by the vanload. The reader keeps thinking that this is really unreal. Deathproof Charlie, is he superhuman? Or just inhuman? We’re not saying. But the paranormal side of the story turns on Virtual Reality implants that restore perhaps fake memory, and these draw from experiments by Dr. Susan Flemyng, whose husband has been murdered in a superbly described decrepit Siberia. Midway through the story, Monk’s secret aspect is revealed, and there’s no turning back for Charlie or the reader.

Another all-nighter whose thinly real opening half sets up a dumfounding series of payoffs.

Pub Date: March 17th, 2003
ISBN: 0-446-52796-3
Page count: 288pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 2003




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