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Back up by Paul Colize

Back up

by Paul Colize

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2010724,375 (3.71)1



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Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This crime thriller by Belgian writer Paul Colize about a British rock band was short-listed for a number of prizes when first released. Only now available in English, the book should find a natural home and receptive audience among rock fans everywhere.
It’s 1967. The rock band Pearl Harbor is taking a break after a hastily organized, late night Berlin recording session, and its four members have scattered. Within days, each of them is dead and unaccountably flush with cash. One is found at the bottom of a pool in a luxury hotel in Palma de Mallorca, one with a bullet in his head in a hotel room in Hamburg, one crushed under a train in a Berlin U-Bahn station, and one who was apparently hiding out in a London hotel and jumped from his fifth floor room.
Who could believe all these deaths were coincidental? The authorities, with their scattered jurisdictions and the differing modes of death believe it, especially when the bodies—and the victims’ histories—reveal alarmingly high levels of drug and alcohol abuse. The band members become no more than rock n roll detritus, washed up by the tide of 1960s counterculture. It’s a bang-up start to this well-constructed mystery.
Fast forward to 2010. In Brussels, a homeless man is hit by a car near the Gare du Midi train station. He’s badly injured, cannot speak, cannot be identified, and comes to be known as X Midi. You are privileged to read his thoughts, however, as he recuperates. He reconstructs his past and his fleeting but deadly association with Pearl Harbor in chapters that alternate with those narrated by his caretakers. They are trying with infinite patience to help him recover from locked-in syndrome, which leaves him almost totally incapable of communicating.
Drug and alcohol use is part of the immersive environment Colize creates and manages not to become tedious. Rumors of U.S. military involvement in the testing psychoactive drugs simmer. There’s lots of music-making too, which is filled with energy and considerable joy. Berlin’s rock scene takes place in bars and nightclubs, and the bartenders and denizens are portrayed convincingly.
Nevertheless, you may be grateful when X Midi’s narrative emerges from his substance-abusing days to confront the deeper and more sinister evil dogging him. Only gradually does he come to understand the true significance of Pear Harbor’s fateful and final recording session, in which he served as the substitute drummer. The back up. ( )
  Vicki_Weisfeld | Mar 20, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The early days of English rock, with their new sounds, buckets of drugs and anarchic lifestyle form the background to Paul Colize's Back Up, a Belgian thriller that bridges conspiracy theory and a classic mystery that you can eat like candy. In 1967, four members of the British rock band Pearl Harbor all die at the same time in different locations under mysterious circumstances. Forty years later a homeless man is hit by a car, leaving him in a near-comatose condition. Add a curious journalist who believes there is a connection between these events and a dedicated physiotherapist who begins the long process of discovering his patient's hidden secret and we are pulled along into a tale of international dirty politics that is gripping and well plotted. Alternate chapters are told in the voice of the patient, X Midi, whose story ties it all together...rock and roll and the fate of the free world! ( )
1 vote abealy | Mar 7, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Paul Colize’s novel Back Up is self-described as a “Belgian crime novel” on the cover, but it doesn’t fit very neatly into the usual boundaries of that characterization. There are murders, to be sure, but the only sleuthing in the traditional sense is done by a journalist who appears almost tangentially in the book. Instead the plot is carried by a man trying to understand why he is threatened by the shadowy bad guys who have killed members of a rock group he joined for a private gig. He is the first-person narrator for about half the chapters, although an accident has left him with “locked-in syndrome,” able to communicate only by blinking.

Some aspects of the novel didn’t work very well for me. The glib narration by a non-verbal narrator was off-putting. The motive for the bad guys (presumably the CIA) wasn’t sold very well. The ending was a little too easy and left a lot hanging. There is, on the other hand, a lot of good local color about life for young people in Europe around the time of the Summer of Love, so if you’re of a certain age, you might enjoy it. ( )
  Larxol | Feb 11, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Back Up, by Paul Colize is one of the most original books I've read in a long time. Half conspiracy novel and half cultural history of London and Europe in the early 60's. It's one of the few novels I've read that has the ability to evoke bittersweet feelings and abject terror simultaneously.

The book starts with the tragic death of the 5 members of Pearl Harbor, a budding Rock and Roll band, in 1965 and then shifts to a homeless man found comatose in Belgium. How are the two connected and what exactly happen at a fateful recording session that transpired shortly before the deaths of the young musicians? You'll enjoy learning the story. And the answers will make you think. ( )
  norinrad10 | Feb 9, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
One way to be a big fish is to swim in a small pond. I have to admit that this was what the cover blurb on my copy of Back Up by Paul Colize brought to mind: "the bestselling Belgian crime novel about an English rock 'n' roll band". I tried to set that on one side and pay attention to the gig but, at the end, I felt it was a largely underwhelming performance; a small fish after all.

Although I read a fair amount of crime novels, I have to admit that most of them involve official investigators and conclude with the central crime largely solved and the danger neutralised - the 'police procedural' end of the scale. I recognise this as quite different - much more of a conspiracy thriller. However, I also had some objective reasons for being less keen. Colize tries to work together a number of distinct stories, several of which turn out to be dead ends for their protagonists, as well as both past and present threads for the central character. This 'hero' suffers a major accident and spends the majority of the novel experiencing 'locked in syndrome'. Perhaps we are meant to share his frustration?

I did feel frustration but it never managed to turn into real sympathy for any of the characters. Possibly the magic of the original writing is lost in the translation but I read a lot of excellent translated fiction so that probably isn't the case. I suspect the truth lies somewhere between an ambitious plan that has not been fully realised and the fact that, even it was, it probably still wouldn't be my thing. Therefore, rather half-heartedly, I'd suggest it is a good one to read if you want to be able to say that you've read a Belgian crime thriller with some musical notes. ( )
  wulf | Feb 8, 2018 |
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