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Explorers of the New Century

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The Restraint of Beasts won the McKitterick Prize and was shortlisted for both the Booker Prize and the Whitbread First Novel AwardMagnus Mills' work has been translated into twenty languages

About the Author

Magnus Mills is the author of two books of short stories, Once in a Blue Moon and Only When the Sun Shines Brightly, as well as four previous novels: The Scheme for Full Employment, Three to See the King, All Quiet on the Orient Express and The Restraint of Beasts, which won the McKitterick Prize and was shortlisted for both the Booker Prize and the Whitbread First Novel Award. His work has been translated into twenty languages. Magnus Mills lives in London.


In this acidly allegorical fancy, two unidentified nations at an unidentified time send coordinated expeditions into an uninhabited place of extreme weather-"the Agreed Furthest Point from Civilization." After arrival at camp, and a minor mishap that injures a mule (which has to be destroyed), the British-seeming team sets out, taking a difficult route over scree-strewn hillocks; the Scandinavian-seeming team, a few days ahead, progresses up a dry river bed. Given the polar explorer motif, questions begin to nag. Why does no one mention the poles? Where is the ice? Where are the sled dogs, and why are both expeditions encumbered with mule trains? Answers present themselves as we become familiar, through indirect hints, with the manner in which the mules have become a burden for both societies. One day, as disaster strikes the British party, a crew member and several mules drown-and one of the mules speaks. Mills (The Restraint of Beasts) expertly wields a narrow-bandwidth prose that hides distortions of reality in its very matter-of-factness. The effect is similar to the way old painters used to put anamorphic skulls in the foreground of their paintings: when we finally understand what we are seeing, it creates a backward-crashing estrangement from any sense of normalcy. (Mar.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

'To write one unique book is a rare achievement. The ability to produce several is truly special' Independent 'A demented, deadpan comic wonder' Thomas Pynchon 'Writers that always spring to mind when reading Magnus Mills are Kafka and Beckett ... Mills asserts himself as [comedy]'s blackest, funniest and most astute practitioner' Daily Telegraph 'While the novel undoubtedly harbours darker elements, its most successful mode is deadpan humour ... he squelches mankind's confident madness, deftly and comically fuses the monotonous and the monstrous' Sunday Times

This is a masterfully realized comic novel that is like something out of Gulliver's Travels by way of Franz Kafka and P.G. Wodehouse. Mills (Three To See the King), a former London bus driver, is known for his surrealist comedies, and this latest work may well be his best. Explorers is a kind of lighthearted, absurdist homage to intrepid European explorers like Roald Amundsen and Robert Falcon Scott, who in 1911 engaged in a race to the South Pole. The two protagonists strive to reach a remote, inhospitable, unexplored destination. Each man leads a team through torturous terrain and impossible ordeals with the ultimate goal too preposterous to summarize here (it involves mules). Mills's touch is light and generous, and there is much that is inspiring about the characters, particularly their humility and courage. What's more, these men face hardship and misfortune while remaining steadfastly courteous and professional. A delight from start to finish, with superb dialog and an endearing cast of characters, this novel is enthusiastically recommended.-Patrick Sullivan, Manchester Community Coll., CT Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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