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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction



Voyage to the End of the Room

by
Tibor Fischer


general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Voyage to the End of the Room



Title: Voyage to the End of the Room
Author: Tibor Fischer
Genre: Novel
Written: 2003
Length: 251 pages
Availability: Voyage to the End of the Room - US
Voyage to the End of the Room - UK
Voyage to the End of the Room - Canada

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Our Assessment:

B : cleverly written, with entertaining detail, but a curiously roundabout story that doesn't come full-circle

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Daily Telegraph C 18/8/2003 Lloyd Evans
Financial Times . 19/9/2003 Lilian Pizzichini
The Guardian . 6/9/2003 Steven Poole
The Independent C- 11/9/2003 Robert Hanks
The Independent . 29/9/2003 Jonathan Gibbs
New Statesman . 8/9/2003 Zoe Williams
The NY Times Book Rev. B 18/1/2004 Jay McInerney
San Francisco Chronicle . 8/2/2004 Brad Vice
Sunday Telegraph . 14/9/2003 Katie Owen
The Times . 11/10/2003 Neel Mukherjee
TLS . 29/8/2003 Tom Shippey
The Washington Post . 18/1/2004 Gavin McNett


  From the Reviews:
  • "My mind erred towards the end, I'm afraid. Those sympathetic to Fischer will plead that this book is teeming with narrative treasures. And sure, we hear countless tales and yarns but they are related at third hand to a vapid interrogator rather than being incorporated into a tight and lucid plot. Undoubtedly, Fischer has all the novelist's skills, but the creative atmosphere of this book reminded me powerfully of Hanif Kureishi's Intimacy -- a copious talent being deployed lazily and in the service of the author rather than the reader." - Lloyd Evans, Daily Telegraph

  • "Fischer is so intent on displaying the contents of his mind -- his intellectual preoccupations, the irritants that stimulate his creativity -- that he forgets to invest his creations with any depth. It's the scatter-gun approach to characterisation. But if the characters aren't memorable, the games Fischer plays with them are." - Lilian Pizzichini, Financial Times

  • "Much of the book, indeed, is taken up with observational riffs on subjects, from London restaurant prices to begging techniques, that hardly seem necessary to the novel. Voyage is, overall, an easy, amusing read, but it suffers from a chatty slackness that is the enemy of really good comic prose." - Steven Poole, The Guardian

  • "(T)he outrageous coincidences and bizarre juxtapositions which riddle the plot simply aren't weird enough. (...) What about the plain truth: Tibor Fischer has produced an uncharacteristically dull book ? You can probably find something better to read." - Robert Hanks, The Independent

  • "The comic invention is relentless, but it evaporates as quickly as it bubbles up. Fischer can create indelible images (.....) It's not enough though. Like the performers at the Babylon club, Fischer's cornucopia of zany anecdotes just keeps coming and coming, without direction or discrimination." - Jonathan Gibbs, The Independent

  • "Anyway, there's a lady, and a man, and the only other important protagonist (Oceane's ex) is dead, so you can probably guess the rest. This is far more interesting than your average modern "love" story, and ranges confidently between a very large number of topics, small and large. It's good -- it just isn't as good as it could have been." - Zoe Williams, New Statesman

  • "(I)t's as if he decided to write a sort of parody of his earlier work -- a kind of faux or anti-travelogue, from the point of view of a woman who never leaves her apartment. (...) Fischer's powers of invention are well-nigh heroic. But as much fun as the anecdotes may be, they don't create any plausible sense of character or plot." - Jay McInerney, The New York Times Book Review

  • "It would be unkind to say that Fischer falls short of profundity, but Voyage to the End of the Room is ultimately a romp, a picaresque adventure in which the "picar" never has to leave the comforting glow of her computer screen. The episodic plot will frustrate some, as will the not-so-mysterious nature of Walter's mysterious letter." - Brad Vice, San Francisco Chronicle

  • "Oceane, an appealing mixture of bravado and vulnerability, has strong reasons for abjuring the outdoors, and it is here that Fischer's satirical abilities bite best. (...) However, Oceane's reminiscences about her time spent working in a sex show in Barcelona are much harder going." - Katie Owen, Sunday Telegraph

  • "(N)othing can stave off the disappointment that comes with reading 250 pages of overextended jocular riffing from the writer who gave us the manically and outrageously original gems The Thought Gang and The Collector Collector. (...) The comic energy and invention don't disappoint: the jokes fizz, crackle and pop, the characters form a gallery of rogues, lunatics and freaks, the situations are bizarre and effervescent, but this remains a stubbornly minor fireworks display." - Neel Mukherjee, The Times

  • "Fischer has no intention of conforming to almost any novelistic convention, and it is giving very little away to say that there is never any dénouement. Indeed, Voyage to the End of the Room is only a novel in outward shape. It is much more like a long collection of anecdotes, and Fischer's skill is as a raconteur. It has to be said that his skill at this is quite prodigious" - Tom Shippey, Times Literary Supplement

  • "It's a splat of clay scattered with gem chips -- or, one suspects, literally a collection of very acute ideas from a notebook that Fischer carries around, ideas that looked like they'd be good in a novel, whatever the next one eventually turned out to be about." - Gavin McNett, The Washington Post

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Voyage to the End of the Room is narrated by Oceane. A few strokes of luck have made her reasonably well-off, allowing her to purchase a flat that's more than adequate for her needs (as well as the flat below it) and to live in relative comfort. It's good that Oceane has a nice flat, because she doesn't get out much. In fact, she doesn't get out of the house at all.
       A failed dancer, she is now a computer graphics designer. She lucked into one great assignment, which is how she got the money for the flat, and she makes enough to get comfortably by. Despite never venturing out she still has a certain amount of Wanderlust, and she has enough money to indulge in that as well: a creative travel agent, curious tourists, and modern technology mean that if she can't go out into the world the world can come to her.
       Fischer nicely presents her aimless, odd existence: he's at his best in the small observations of her small world -- and of the nightmares surrounding it (Oceane doesn't live in the best of neighbourhoods, and a running joke (of sorts) is how the police never answer the phone when she bothers to call them). Among the few to intrude in her world is a debt collector named Audley. He goes about his job very creatively (allowing for a few more nice Fischer riffs), and Oceane is tempted to employ him. When she gets a letter from Walter -- who she thought had been dead for ten years -- she does.
       From here the book veers back, as Oceane recounts her adventures in Barcelona where she worked as a performer in a sex-club when she was in her early twenties. It was an opportunity -- to travel abroad, to earn some easy money. She already lived as on an island here, never really venturing out beyond the club's confines. All the comforts -- from a place to live, a swimming pool, food, and company -- were readily available, and there was no reason to seek out more.
       In dead-pan style, and with a nice rhythm Fischer relates the odds and ends of her time there -- very odd, and with some disconcerting ends. Fischer offers a fill of anecdotes, here and throughout, brazen, outlandish, occasionally hilarious. His particular talent is in never pushing too far: regardless of how odd the story, he pulls back or moves on before the sheer ridiculousness of it causes his whole fictional edifice to collapse.
       The episodes are entertaining, but the over-arching story doesn't quite come off. For one, the mysterious Walter isn't much of a presence, even in the long Barcelona section, and Fischer makes the reader wait and wait until the story loops back to the present -- only for it immediately to loop back elsewhere, as Audley recounts his own past, in war-torn Yugoslavia. Again, it's clever and amusing stuff, and parts are relevant for what comes after, but the book begins to feel mighty aimless around there.
       Back in the present, eventually, Oceane does hire Audley. He's not ideally suited for the job because, while he (unlike Oceane) does go out and about he doesn't want to venture abroad again. But for her, and for this he does. Connected via audio and video relay Oceane follows Audley's (mis)adeventures abroad. Again (and again): it's fun and clever stuff, these episodes and occurrences, but the overarching story has by now become the flimsiest of threads. There's action ! excitement ! adventure ! hilarity ! -- all in wonderful dead-pan style, with just the right light dusting of sentimentality -- but a satisfying novel it doesn't quite add up to.

       The title of the novel echoes the titles of Xavier de Maistre's memoir and Céline's Journey to the End of the Night and Fischer's novel really is an effective mix of these, combining the horror, humour, philosophy, and style found in them.
       Occasionally the satire falls flat -- the London outside Oceane's window, especially, doesn't sound entirely convincing. It's here Fischer occasionally even opts for the too-easy line:

     Apart from the big attractions, London has become fluid: a big soup where the meat and veg might stay the same, but everything floats around. Companies move, employees move, everything moves, except the traffic.
       Elsewhere he's better at conveying his bleak world-view:
     I can't fault my parents. But it has to be said that being brought up loved and treated decently is poor preparation for life. We were a family, and although I didn't realise it at the time, that made us freaks.
       Voyage to the End of the Room is brimming full of rich invention. Piece after piece is carefully crafted -- well-written, clever, often very funny. But the pieces don't fit neatly together: the narrative has an uneven, staggering flow, looping awkwardly back without adequately anchoring itself in the present. It's full of promise -- gleaming nuggets on every page -- but it doesn't add up to a satisfying novel.

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Links:

Voyage to the End of the Room: Reviews: Tibor Fischer: Other Books by Tibor Fischer under Review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Contemporary British fiction at the complete review

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About the Author:

       Born in 1959 British author Tibor Fischer's first book, Under the Frog won the Betty Trask Award and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

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© 2003-2010 the complete review

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