The Coincidence Engine

Sam Leith

The Coincidence Engine

A hurricane sweeps off the Gulf of Mexico and in, the back-country of Alabama, assembles a passenger jet out of old bean-cans and junkyard waste. An eccentric mathematician — last heard of investigating the physics of free will and ranting about the devil — vanishes in the French Pyrenees. And the thuggish operatives of a multinational arms conglomerate are closing in on Alex Smart — a harmless Cambridge postgraduate who has set off with hope in his heart and a ring in his pocket to ask his American girlfriend to marry him. At the Directorate of the Extremely Improbable — an organisation so secret that many of its operatives aren't 100 per cent sure it exists — Red Queen takes an interest. What ensues is a chaotic chase across an imaginary America, haunted by madness, murder, mistaken identity, and a very large number of unhealthy but delicious snacks. The Coincidence Engine exists. And it has started to work. 3.4 out of 5 based on 10 reviews
The Coincidence Engine

Omniscore:

Classification Fiction
Genre General Fiction
Format Hardback
Pages 288
RRP £12.99
Date of Publication April 2011
ISBN 978-1408802342
Publisher Bloomsbury
 

A hurricane sweeps off the Gulf of Mexico and in, the back-country of Alabama, assembles a passenger jet out of old bean-cans and junkyard waste. An eccentric mathematician — last heard of investigating the physics of free will and ranting about the devil — vanishes in the French Pyrenees. And the thuggish operatives of a multinational arms conglomerate are closing in on Alex Smart — a harmless Cambridge postgraduate who has set off with hope in his heart and a ring in his pocket to ask his American girlfriend to marry him. At the Directorate of the Extremely Improbable — an organisation so secret that many of its operatives aren't 100 per cent sure it exists — Red Queen takes an interest. What ensues is a chaotic chase across an imaginary America, haunted by madness, murder, mistaken identity, and a very large number of unhealthy but delicious snacks. The Coincidence Engine exists. And it has started to work.

Reviews

The Literary Review

Jonathan Barnes

[Reviewing a batch of debut novels] It is Sam Leith ... who manages to temper most successfully the first novelist’s impulses towards formal originality and pyrotechnics of style with the telling of an engaging story involving believable characters ... Although Leith cannot resist the occasional self-referential flourish ... he sticks mostly to ensuring that he retains his readers’ attention...

01/04/2011

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The Independent

Peter Carty

If this is a scenario to make readers nervous, wary of whimsical self-indulgence or portentous post-modernism, fear not. Sam Leith pulls it off with admirable imaginative stamina, helped along by sharply observed and entertaining writing.

22/04/2011

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The Spectator

John Preston

One of the pleasures of Sam Leith’s debut novel is its sureness of tone ... The pace never lets up, nor does the invention. Reading The Coincidence Engine is a bit like being stuck in a spin-dryer on maximum revs. But there’s plenty here for your brain to chew on long after your eyeballs have stopped rotating in opposite directions.

23/04/2011

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The Sunday Times

Anthony Cummins

One of the reasons The Coincidence Engine works is that — for all the obvious quirkiness — it takes its vast transatlantic cast seriously … Pitched somewhere between the heartbreaking pratfalls of Jonathan Coe and the paranoid zaniness of Thomas Pynchon, this is a clever debut, well worth checking out.

10/04/2011

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The Times

Kate Saunders

A superbly entertaining brain-twister.

16/04/2011

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The Guardian

Colin Greenland

... an absurdist novel of ideas, comparable to the books of Robert Anton Wilson: anarchic, psychedelic, with a serious delight in paradox ... At the same time his playfulness leads always to a kind of melancholy.

02/04/2011

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The Evening Standard

Nicholas Lezard

"Philip K Dick meets Evelyn Waugh," is how Michael Moorcock describes the novel in a publicity quote; I would say it's more Thomas Pynchon meets Dirk Gently-era Douglas Adams. If this kind of thing appeals and if you are not too fussed about prose style then there is much innocent pleasure here.

31/03/2011

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The Daily Mail

Hephzibah Anderson

The intrusion of a first-person narrator is too erratic to really come off, but it’s an otherwise confidently told puzzler with brains, brawn and an abundance of madcap mischief.

31/03/2011

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The Observer

Killian Fox

At times, The Coincidence Engine reads like a lighthearted imitation of a Thomas Pynchon novel … Luckily, the book picks up as it goes along. This is because Leith eases up on the zaniness and lets his characters be (relatively) normal.

03/04/2011

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The Times

Catherine Nixey

Paradoxically, the more interesting the events in this book become, the less interesting each event feels ... Coincidences, and the interest we find in them, are in the eye of the beholder. By the end of this book, little seems improbable or coincidental. And, painful though it is to admit it — for Leith is a great writer — not all that much seems interesting, either.

24/03/2012

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