My edition: Paperback (proof), published on 18 June 2015 by Galley Beggar Press, 260 pages.
Description: Steven Strauss is just where he doesn’t want to be: on a ‘business trip’ to India with his boss Raymond Ess, the charismatic and chaotic founder of Resolute Aviation. Lately the company has fallen on hard times – indeed Steven and his fellow employees have accepted that Resolute is dead and they’re all going to lose their jobs. But not Raymond Ess. Ess is determined to save his beloved company, and to this end he’s devised an audacious rescue plan. He claims that during his recent travels he has come across a man, a recluse of the Indian wilds, who is willing to sell his remarkable invention: an antigravity machine. Now, with Steven in tow, Ess has returned to India planning to buy the machine, to bring it to market and thereby right all wrongs, recover all losses, restore all reputations.
Steven knows it is madness. He knows antigravity machines don’t exist. He knows also that last year Raymond Ess had a spectacular mental breakdown. However in India, Steven will find there is much that he doesn’t know. Who is this reclusive inventor, this Tarik Kundra, and does he even exist? Who is this guide who will take them to find him in the country’s most remote wilderness, Asha Jarwal? And who is this bumbling, soft-spoken elderly American, Harry Altman, and why is he suddenly everywhere Ess and Steven go?
I've had such a fantastic time reading the diverse range of novels offered through the Curtis Brown Book Group this year, from mesmerising debut novel The Ship by Antonia Honeywell (which I have recommended to a fellow reader as recently as yesterday) to the quirky The Museum of Things Left Behind by Sani Glaister. And from the incredibly moving Letters to the Lost by Iona Grey (my favourite of the CBBookgroup reads) to the surprising The Insect Farm by Stuart Prebble (I don't normally read crime-type novels but that was one I thoroughly enjoyed). Each was wildly different and a joy to talk about and dissect with my fellow book group members, the authors and the brilliant brains behind the group; Emma and Richard from Curtis Brown.
The Weightless World by Anthony Trevelyan was the final book in the first round of discussions and unfortunately my least favourite of the bunch. It wasn't a bad book at all, but it really didn't click with me and I struggled feeling any sort of interest in the story and the characters' struggles throughout. The fact that protagonist Steven was a confusing and unlikeable person, didn't help matters greatly. Not that all main characters should be sweet and relatable, but I tend to find myself more invested in novels where I care for what happens to the characters than the ones where it's more story driven and the characters almost act as a background to either a major plot point or even the writing itself.
In the case of The Weightless World, the story is centred around the fantastical discovery of an anti-gravity machine in India. Steven's boss, Ess, is the one who uncovered it and with Steven in tow he sets off to obtain the machine and bring it back to England with him so his company can dissect and utilise the incredible invention. Unbeknownst to Ess, however, his company is going into administration while he's abroad and Steven is really there to ensure that Ess doesn't do anything crazy. Yet with other forces at play, it becomes increasingly difficult to uncover whether it is Steven hiding things from Ess or whether Ess is hiding something from Steven, or perhaps neither of them really has a clue what is going on.
While this unfortunately wasn't a novel for me, it was a joy to discuss it with my fellow Curtis Brown Book Groupers, as their insightful comments about the book made me appreciate it much more than me reading it and trying to figure it out in solitude. I now have a greater understanding of the complicated character dynamics and the incredibly fascinating concept behind the story (one for which I have to tip my hat to author Anthony Trevelyan). And it was a very short novel as well so despite the dense contents it was a swift read and not one that I felt I was struggling on with for weeks on end.
While perhaps The Weightless World wasn't up my alley, if you are generally a fan of complicated and thought-provoking intellectual reads then this might be that new brain stimulator you've been looking for.
You can purchase the novel from Waterstones, Amazon.co.uk or your own preferred retailer.
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Many thanks to Curtis Brown Book Group for a copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.