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reviews /  editor book review
editor content by: editor
wu ming '54' wu ming
No one at home.

In Q, four Italian Situationists adopting the nom de plume “Luther Blissett” (the Watford and AC Milan striker) crafted a fascinating work in the airport-novel style. It encompassed the Reformation, the establishment of the international banking system and, fittingly enough for a bunch of Marxists, a generous serving of dialectics.

54 is the collective’s follow-up, except now they want to be known as Wu Ming, meaning “No One” in Mandarin. Named for the 20th-century year in which its sprawling plot unfolds, 54 delves into consumerism’s birth via Lucky Luciano’s establishment of the global heroin trade, Cary Grant’s work as a spy, the struggle between Left and Right over control of the Italian state, and a young Bolognan barman in search of his father.

Unfortunately, while the fascinating subject matter of Q kept one’s interest from flagging during its dodgier parts (at least one member of this mysterious quartet can’t write for toffee), 54 takes way too long to spark only fitfully into life.

Chris Power 25 May 06 rating of 2
54 by Wu Ming, out now published by Arrow.
Read members' comments related to this book.
54 post 1
comment by Loving Insane    May 25, 2006
I agree that Q was a much more engrossing book than 54. The scale of Q, in comparison with 54 is much grander. But that's a negative as much as a positive. Although I prefer Q over 54, I think that "Wu Ming's" second offering is perhaps much more accessible. There are many characters involved in 54's plot, and they're rather quickly hurried past you in the first few chapters. This gives the reader a chance to explore the scale of the novel - it may be a touch head spinning but you know who everyone is very quickly and can then concentrate on enjoying how their lives will ultimately become entwined. In Q, the reader was faced with many questions, which were only very slowly answered (although usually in a satisfying manner).

I enjoyed the novel approach taken with both 54 and Q by the multiple authors: it creates an interesting narrative. However, sometimes things don't gel quite as you might expect, and yes, certain members of the group might have more literary genius than others.

All in all though, I think 54 is an extremely entertaining read. What other books can boost such diverse scenes as Italian gangsters mistaking Alfred Hitchcock for Winton Churchill, or sections of the narrative voiced by an '50s American (luxury) television set? It's certainly worth a look!

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