Winner, The Man Booker Prize, 2015
On December 3, 1976, just before the Jamaican general election and two days before Bob Marley was to play the Smile Jamaica Concert, gunmen stormed his house, machine guns blazing. The attack nearly killed the Reggae superstar, his wife, and his manager, and injured several others. Marley would go on to perform at the free concert on December 5, but he left the country the next day, not to return for two years.
Deftly spanning decades and continents and peopled with a wide range of characters - assassins, journalists, drug dealers, and even ghosts - A Brief History of Seven Killings is the fictional exploration of that dangerous and unstable time and its bloody aftermath, from the streets and slums of Kingston in the 1970s, to the crack wars in 1980s New York, to a radically altered Jamaica in the 1990s. Brilliantly inventive and stunningly ambitious, this novel is a revealing modern epic that will secure Marlon James' place among the great literary talents of his generation.
©2014 Marlon James. Recorded by arrangement with Penguin Books. (P)2014 HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books
I'm a singer, songwriter, musician, producer and music educator. I've spent the majority of my life wearing headphones . . .
I've been an Audible member for the past 10 years and this is simply, without a doubt, the best written and the best . . . well, narrated doesn't really do the character acting justice . . . the best read audio book I have listened to in all that time.
It's poetic and historic. It's vulgar and violent and beautiful. It's tragic and comic. But most importantly . . . it's so damned interesting and engaging.
One master-passion in the br east, like Aaron's serpent, swallows all the rest. A. Pope
A BRIEF HISTORY OF SEVEN KILLINGS is a riveting novel -- the best novel that I can recall in the past nearly 50 years focused on organized crime, and it may be the best ever mob-centered novel in terms of literary structure and scope. It's destined to make all the lists for best books of this decade and probably for the best books since 2000. It's already been garnered for author Marlon James the 2015 Man Booker Prize.
I cannot recall a novel in the past two decades so powerful, so searing in its combination of unique voice, intriguing characters and captivating storylines, such as when it gives a number of thrilling and feverish first-person accounts for a December 1976 shooting of the character known as The Singer and the immediate, devastating aftermath, and later provides a fascinating, fictional (though plausible) explanation for Bob Marley's (I mean, the Singer character's) death in early 1981 from cancer.
The book is told almost solely in the first person narrative accounts of various characters. It follows the Greater Kingston, Jamaica gangs (chiefly, the one known as the Storm Posse) and related characters over 3 decades - in Greater Kingston for the first 2, then mainly in New York from 1985 to 1991.
The 2 complaints about this audiobook seem to be limited to: 1) difficulty in understanding the narration of some of the characters due to their broad Jamaican accent, particularly one (a teen from the slums) who slurs together his words; and, 2) too many characters to follow. Please allow me to answer each because I'd hate for anyone to miss such a treasure based on either of these two fears, both of which are simply resolved.
As to the first, I'll admit that I nearly gave up on the book with the narrative accent of the character Bam-Bam, a teen gang member. I decided that instead of abandoning the novel, I'd listen again to his first chapter. Shortly thereafter something funny happened: I began to comprehend all the Jamaican characters, including Bam-Bam, after that one re-listen and from listening to that of other Jamaican characters (maybe 90% of the book is in Jamaican accents, most of which are relatively easy to immediately comprehend). The way Marlon James wrote the novel, having multiple narrators was imperative and proved well worth it. Moreover, the accents tremendously enhanced the experience of the book.
By the way, this book has me searching for other Marlon James novels. What a talent!
As for the number of characters, I simply downloaded the kindle sample of the book which has a straightforward list of characters. With this list, I had no problem keeping up with the characters.
Also, I'll note that some females may be offended by the number of times they use the P word and the repetitive use of the derogative Jamaican slang term "bumbaclot." You don't wanna know what this means literally, trust me.
Aside from that, I cannot recommend this novel highly enough.
An' one more ting me need you don fahget, me ute:
Don pess on da gorgon!
I am still listening to this book, but I have to admit I had to buy the hardcover accompany the audiobook. The book actually has a three page list of characters that I needed to track the story, especially in the beginning. Also, the chapters were titled by the voice of the narrator, so that made it a lot easier to track. I am really enjoying the performances, but don't think I could stay the course without the character list.
Too many damn characters makes this a joyless and unrewarding read. Certain characters disappear, their storylines left out to dry, others that the author does focus on - "Weeper" comes to mind - are far less interesting. What happened to the female Columbian drug dealer? Nothing... We get a couple of paragraphs about her, and then she never appears again.
Oh, what could have been...
I am still trying to decide what to make of this book. Narratively, it is very intriguing as the voice shifts through many characters but the novel is 25% too long. A good editor could have helped with this. The plot becomes relatively predictable part way through -- you know there are going to be seven killings (although there are many, many more that don't get counted) -- and none of the characters is particularly worth our allegiance, few even warrant much attention. This last point does play into the problems in the narrative as when certain characters start to speak, who cares? I found this frustrating, particularly in the middle of the novel.
The novel is violent (d'uh "killings" in the title), profane (now I can swear in Jamaican), and sexually violent, so it may not be for the faint of heart. This gives some of the narrative a raw energy, but as it goes on and on, it becomes less meaningful or effective.
Toward the end (perhaps the last third), the story lines tended to come together and develop more rapidly, making the last third of the book better. This moved it from two stars to 3 in my estimation.
Many reviews call it "ambitious" but I would call it "overreaching". I can see why it won a Booker Prize, given the "ambitious" nature of the story, but I still can't get too excited about it.
The audible narration, using a range of voices, worked well for this book and made the Jamaican patois easy to follow.
This book seems to have been written to be performed as an audiobook. The use of multiple narrators brought the story vividly life. The book was artfully written from multiple perspectives, which just made the narrative more engaging. The beautifully performed Jamaican patois would have been difficult to read, but was beautiful to listen to, despite the wrenching and painful story. Highly recommended!
I just ordered a hardcover edition of this book. The audio edition was outstanding
I love the break in the story, going from one character to another. Even seeing different views of the same incident
The narrator performance were excellent. I especially love Nina Burgess aka Kim Carter aka-------
I grew up in bush wick doing the 1980; this book claim to be non-fiction however the details are very close to events that occurred.
Will definitely add this to my list of top 50 books African American should read.... Outstanding!!!!
this is one of the most intense, gritty, violent, and insane books I've ever read. it's also one of the most unique and brilliant. moves at a rapid fire speed and very suspensful. this book had some of the most vile characters I've ever heard/read/seen in anything, yet I was mesmerized and actually felt sympathy for some of them. the Jamaican dialect takes some getting used to and almost ruined it for me but I stuck with it and now I couldn't imagine the book being nearly as good without it. good narrators too minus a few frustrating chapters here and there. if you're looking for an epic read I highly recommend.
I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it. - Salinger ^(;,;)^
"God puts earth far away from heaven because even he can't stand the smell of dead flesh. Death is not a soul catcher or a spirit, it's a wind with no warmth, a crawling sickness."
-- Marlon James, A Brief History of Seven Killings
First, it is hard to push all that is into this novel into a bottle. So, I'll just say it felt like some weird hybrid of (here is my brief history of seven fathers/mothers): James Ellroy (think Jamaican Tabloid), Don DeLillo (think Libra), Zadie Smith (think Shiny Teeth), Elmore Leonard (think Get Singer), Roberto Bolaño (think Savage Possy), Gay Talese (Think Bob Marley has a Toe), and with the magical realism of Gabriel García Márquez.
Anyway, this novel seemed to grab me and I didn't want to let it go. There was power and pull in this novel. It attracted and repelled me at the same time. I wanted to read it, but I didn't want to finish. Just as I would fall into the mix of the dialogue, I would be pushed back out. It wasn't easy and wasn't always fun, but it was constantly amazing. It really did, emotionally, feel like I was reading one of Ellroy's best novels. It could have been Ellroy's Underworld USA #4. This was also a master juggling a bunch of themes and textual ideas. James framed this twisting story of violence, place, race, poverty, power, drugs, sex, language, and death in a funky way (but not too funky and I'm not going to give it away). It reminded me of Lawrence Ferlinghetti's poem 'Constantly Risking Absurdity':
Constantly risking absurdity
whenever he performs
above the heads
of his audience ..."
James puts it all out there. And he tends to hit most of his marks, and the ones he doesn't hit perfectly can also be excused because of the difficulty of what he is trying to pull of. This wasn't a perfect novel, but it was a perfect thrill.
Many reviews of this audio book commend how well written it is and many condemn how hard it is to get through. Yes it's long with many characters and incredible detail (including much violence), but it's so worth sticking with and finishing this amazingly well written book! If you like books that come together and are wrapped up in a nice little bow at the end, you won't care for this book. This book is an incredible story and the audio version is very well read by many different readers making it sound almost like a play. I now want to read the book.
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