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How the other half lives

James Lovegrove

PS Publishing

UK Hardcover First

ISBN 1-902-88001-3

Publication Date: 06-01-1999

46 Pages; £25.00

Foursight/How the other half lives

James Lovegrove

Victor Gollancz / Orion

UK Hardcover

ISBN 0-575-06870-1

222 pages; £15.99

Publication Date: 05-16-2000

Date Reviewed: 08-05-02

Binary/How the other half lives

James Lovegrove

Victor Gollancz / Orion

UK Paperback

ISBN 1-857-98759-4

176 pages; £3.99

Publication Date: 12-28-2000

Reviewed by Rick Kleffel © 2002




08-22-02, 12-13-02, 05-23-03

There's a secret to being rich. James Lovegrove applies his most devilish imagination to this puzzle and comes up with a taut, terrifying and wonderful tale of the true nature of capitalism in 'How the other half lives'. In 46 pages, Lovegrove manages to write a thought-provoking and terrorizing tale of the rich, the poor and the enslaved. His mannered prose is proper and delicate, even when describing indelicate attentions. He treads lightly even when he's carrying a big stick and using it quite effectively to flail against the evils of the giga-corporate mentality. 'How the other half lives' is also quite funny at the very same time it is extremely disturbing. Lovegrove does indeed manage to combine opposites.

William Ian North is a giga-rich man who controls empires of cash as 'vast as tectonic plates'. Chauffeured to work each day, he presides over decisions that will make or break companies and countries. He moves money about the way a small child moves about his toys. He is supremely confident, without peer, powerful. Each night he arrives home and there unearths the secret to his power. There's a ritual that keeps him at the top, with so many so far below him. Lovegrove moves effortlessly between the home and work worlds, and manages to evoke the power he wishes without sacrificing the humanity of the character. North is no mere cipher for the rich. He's got an interior life and a beating heart.

Lovegrove's prose is a pleasure to read throughout the novel. He manages to sound classy but not stuffy, erudite but not pretentious. This is well and good, since much of the novel is filled with disturbing imagery and actions on the part of North. At its heart, 'How the other half lives' is a Faustian tale, with lives and souls in the balance. It's Lovegrove's talent that makes you actually care about the soul of characters as cold and calculating as North. As a tale of bargains and trades, it also treads on capitalism with steel-toe shoes. Lovegrove offers an unpleasant confirmation of all our suspicions of how the rich get richer while the poor get poorer. He creates, in miniature, a portrait of how the world at large works, and it's not a pretty picture, but for the prose the Lovegrove uses to capture it.

'How the other half lives' is an excellent, readable bit of grue that is resonant and will be remembered by the reader long after it is finished. The PS Publishing packaging is superb, but nearly impossible to find in hardcover. Thanks to Victor Gollancz, however, you can score 'How the other half lives' as part 'Foursight', a hardcover collection of the first four novellas from PS Publishing. It is also available as part of 'Binary 1', an 'Ace Double'-style paperback with Graham Joyce's equally disturbing 'Leningrad Nights'. If the very phrase 'Ace Double' brings a mist, then you'd best be getting out the hankie with your credit card.