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Game Control by Lionel Shriver
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Game Control (1994)

by Lionel Shriver

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I am used to being challenged by Lionel Shriver's books: they are always full of intelligent insight and dense prose. But there is usually a compelling plot driving thing along, and in this particular novel I felt the balance between plot and analysis, however intelligent, had been tipped too far in the wrong direction.

There can't be many novels written entirely about demography so top marks both for originality and research. It got me thinking about a school geography project I did 35 years ago - among the topics to choose from was population, and I immediately homed in on it, the idea of pages of numbers appealing to my aspergic tendencies. It wasn't long before I realised this topic was literally all about sex. What a shock that was to my queasy 12 year old self and I promptly abandoned it in favour of coastal erosion. But what's wrong with a book all about sex when you're an adult? Absolutely nothing, except that this one was full of people theorising out loud and avoiding having sex. The central character, beleaguered family planning worker Eleanor, is merely a conduit as she visits first one intellectual who regales her with his theories about population control, then she visits another who presents the opposite point of view. A meeting between the two opposing intellectuals ensues and they argue wordily with each other about population control. And repeat.

Stick with it and a plot with major dramatic potential does emerge, but it does take persistence. Arriving there was like reaching the summit of Everest: you want to stand and look around for a while and reflect on just how few people have stood where you are. It is clear from the author's afterword that this wasn't a massive commercial success, and that indeed its published form is some one hundred manuscript pages short of its original length ("so readers count your blessings" she comments sardonically). A book to read for the sake of completeness and for the thought provoking points it puts forward. I can't deny that I'm far better informed about demography than I was when I picked it up. ( )
  jayne_charles | Mar 11, 2017 |
another well written novel by Lionel Shriver who also wrote "We Need to talk about Kevin". This novel did not grip me like the "Kevin" novel did. It is a good commentary on the hypocrisy of bad ideas, the idea being put forth by Calvin Piper to reduce overpopulation by eliminating masses of people with a deadly virus. ( )
  Smits | Oct 18, 2016 |
Again, Lionel Shriver shows her mastery of character study. You feel like you know these people. Unfortunately, I’ve dated guys like Calvin Piper. (Hopefully, they were only exploiting my low self-esteem to get me to do their homework and not plotting mass murder) ( )
  memccauley6 | May 3, 2016 |
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The most dignified thing for a worm to do is to sit up and sit still. -Henry Adams
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"Not on the list," the askari declared grandly.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 006123950X, Paperback)

Eleanor Merritt, a do-gooding American family-planning worker, was drawn to Kenya to improve the lot of the poor. Unnervingly, she finds herself falling in love with the beguiling Calvin Piper despite, or perhaps because of, his misanthropic theories about population control and the future of the human race. Surely, Calvin whispers seductively in Eleanor's ear, if the poor are a responsibility they are also an imposition.

Set against the vivid backdrop of shambolic modern-day Africa—a continent now primarily populated with wildlife of the two-legged sort—Lionel Shriver's Game Control is a wry, grimly comic tale of bad ideas and good intentions. With a deft, droll touch, Shriver highlights the hypocrisy of lofty intellectuals who would "save" humanity but who don't like people.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:15 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

"Eleanor Merritt, a do-gooding American family-planning worker, was drawn to Kenya to improve the lot of the poor. Unnervingly, she finds herself falling in love with the beguiling Calvin Piper despite, or perhaps because of, his misanthropic theories about population control and the future of the human race. Surely, Calvin whispers seductively in Eleanor's ear, if the poor are a responsibility they are also an imposition. Set against the vivid backdrop of shambolic modern-day Africa-- a continent now primarily populated with wildlife of the two-legged sort-- Lionel Shriver's Game Control is a wry, grimly comic tale of bad ideas and good intentions. With a deft, droll touch, Shriver highlights the hypocrisy of lofty intellectuals who would "save" humanity but who don't like people"--Cover.… (more)

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