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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


How to Rule the World

Tibor Fischer

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To purchase How to Rule the World

Title: How to Rule the World
Author: Tibor Fischer
Genre: Novel
Written: 2018
Length: 243 pages
Availability: How to Rule the World - US
How to Rule the World - UK
How to Rule the World - Canada
How to Rule the World - India

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Our Assessment:

B : sharp, but stutters along

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Financial Times . 4/5/2018 Ian Shine
The Guardian . 2/5/2018 Jake Arnott
The Spectator . 14/4/2018 Viv Groskop
The Times . 7/4/2018 John Sutherland
TLS . 7/6/2018 Hal Jensen

  From the Reviews:
  • "Fischerís new novel How to Rule the World is still packed full of skewering syntactical stunts, often involving his trademark wordplay (...) but while they brand some unforgettable images on the brain, the novelís storyline is so episodic, and peppered with so many exhaustingly angry asides, itís easy to forget where you are from one page to the next. (...) Unfortunately for Bax, he does close to nothing in this novel, and the verdict on the work he does manage isnít great either. And unfortunately for Fischer, for all his Michelin-starred sentences, this book feels like a series of bitter canapés in want of a main course. " - Ian Shine, Financial Times

  • "As an extended monologue it has tremendous energy (.....) (D)espite all the travelling around I never felt we went anywhere. I was reminded of those stadium comedians who walk up and down a massive stage endlessly, as if giving us some sort of journey. Fischer is a great literary comedian, but with this novel thereís not so much a sense of an author running out of steam but a whole genre dying on its feet." - Jake Arnott, The Guardian

  • "If you are sick to death of media, reality TV, Londonís losers and capitalism in general, this may well be the book for you. Although I had fun reading it, I wasnít entirely convinced I had understood it. How to Rule the World has a meandering, self-conscious narrative, and it isnít always easy to figure out what is really going on and what is happening in Baxterís mind. You canít help but wonder if the whole thing is some kind of meta comment on the illusion of fiction." - Viv Groskop, The Spectator

  • "How to Rule the World is not, as it might at first seem, a satire on documentaries and their makers. It is, instead, a full-force tale of mishap and miserabilism. (...) There is a plot -- the search for a safe -- but it is the faintest of gestures. Above all, this novel is about voice." - Hal Jensen, Times Literary Supplement

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:

       How to Rule the World is narrated by Baxter, a film-maker whose career -- and industry -- has seen better days. In a time when capturing current events for television (and, of course, the internet) can be -- and is -- done by anyone with a cell phone, the 'Vizz', as he calls the industry, has become a much harder scramble. It doesn't help that a while back he foolishly put up his own money to realize his grand dream project -- "My Magnum", as he calls it, 'The Ray', a Gilles de Rais-spectacular -- that then literally went up in flames. He lost his money (and home), and professionally he's staggering, having trouble finding any paid projects to work on. At least he does have a surprisingly equanimous -- if not quite understanding -- wife, a young son he dotes on, and even an au pair, as well as decent living arrangements (occupying, at a friend's-rate rent, the house of someone who has good reason not to be seen in the neighborhood for now) and a parking spot so prime he hasn't moved his car for four months.
       A colleague notes that Baxter is: "the original disaster magnet", and he does seem to have rather bad luck. He also has an undeservedly sinister reputation, complete with the nickname 'Prince of Darkness', and is the subject of impressively exaggerated gossip on the internet -- but he can live with that. It doesn't help him all that much in getting jobs, however.
       His -- and his colleagues' -- main foil is Commissioning Editor Johxn (the x is silent ...), a man so thick he turned down a proposal for an interview with Osama bin Laden in the summer of 2001 ("No one's ever come to me with such a lame, unfucktastic proposal, Bax", he dismissed him at the time). Johxn claims he has some money at his disposal, and dangles it in front of Baxter and his colleagues, soliciting proposals for what he can lavish it on. Like the others, Baxter wants to make a grab for it -- but he's having trouble coming up with a pitch.
       Other things preöccupy him too, like finding the safe of a friend of his, wondering what last secrets might be buried there (a safe Johxn is hunting for, too), but How to Rule the World is only loosely a quest-tale. Mostly, it's a loose tale, Baxter bumbling about, hired -- sort of -- for a variety of smaller projects and fumbling his way through them, and traveling about a bit. There's trouble, of different sorts, at most of the turns, but Baxter generally manages to stagger away from it, eventually.
       Like Baxter -- and, admittedly, much like life -- How to Rule the World mostly putters and stutters along, full of (Baxter's) life's small distractions and the occasionally more dramatic events. Fischer doesn't go for a big, neat life/story-arc; How to Rule the World is more mini-rants and anecdotage -- enhanced by touches of (and visits to) the exotic. A lot of the writing is crisp and sharp, and funny, in a dark, defeated way. Baxter's world-weary cynicism has just enough humanity to it, and there's an agreeably bizarre cast of characters around him (though the names can get a bit tiresome).
       Like Baxter, How to Rule the World is a bit lacking in follow-through. It doesn't have Baxter's flab, but the bigger and smaller ideas -- from The Ray to his family to friend Herbie's safe -- crop up rather than maintain a real presence, a background continuity that is life-like but somewhat underwhelming when packaged in a story. Still, when Fischer does it right -- as in the essentially second-hand resolution of the safe-story -- it can be effective, too.
       How to Rule the World isn't entirely satisfying as a novel, but it is a sourly enjoyable read,

- M.A.Orthofer, 13 Mai 2018

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How to Rule the World: 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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© 2018 the complete review

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