Madness Is Better Than Defeat by Ned Beauman

Madness Is Better Than Defeat

Ned Beauman

Shot through with insanity, intrigue, ingenuity, and adventure, showcasing Beauman's anarchic humor, spectacular imagination, and riveting prose, Madness Is Better Than Defeat teases, absorbs, entertains, and dazzles in equal measure.

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A wild, astonishing literary thriller by arguably England's most accomplished young writer, about Manhattan and Hollywood in the 1930s, Mayan gods, and a CIA operation gone terribly wrong--the Man Booker short-listed Ned Beauman's magnum opus thus far.

In 1938, two rival expeditions descend on an ancient temple recently discovered in the jungles of Honduras, one intending to shoot a screwball comedy on location there, the other to disassemble the temple and ship it back to New York. A seemingly endless stalemate ensues, and twenty years later a rogue CIA agent sets out to exploit it for his own ends, unaware that the temple is a locus of conspiracies far grander than anyone could ever have guessed. Shot through with insanity, intrigue, ingenuity, and adventure, showcasing Beauman's anarchic humor, spectacular imagination, and riveting prose, Madness Is Better Than Defeat teases, absorbs, entertains, and dazzles in equal measure.

Advance Galley Reviews

Based on the description, I thought I would enjoy this book; however, I just could not get into it and did not get far before I put it down.

Sadly, I just couldn’t get into this story. I pushed through 4 chapters and just couldn’t finish. I don’t tend to do that very often. It might be that I’ve read a lot of time traveling books over the last month or what, it just wasn’t a great fit for me. I appreciate the attempt Ned Beauman put into it, whom I usually enjoy reading this just wasn’t for me.

Often when I read historical fiction, part of my brain is engaged in connecting the dots, settling the plot into a scaffolding of fact, deciding what is verifiable and what is the fiction. There are just no dots here to connect. There's Honduras and United Fruit and Hollywood and the CIA and something about Cuba and smuggled gods and just forget it nothing makes sense or is verifiable, even the truth, which is definitely not here. I should have known better with a title that values madness. I loved it. What an amazing story and storyteller. What insight into human frailty, and yet dogged suspension of common sense. It's like I had a long layover and a crazy person sat next to me and started to spin a fascinating, senseless yarn and I could get up and walk away, I could shake my head and state the truth that it isn't plausible, but I find I don't want to walk away, and maybe truth isn't all it's cracked up to be. I kept picking up this book and having no idea what to expect and being eager to dig in. The story and language are so strong that I didn't need to like any of the characters, but I did anyway, and they made good, if unreliable, company. I'm rooting for them to throw it all to the wind and start a jazz club at the base of a pyramid in the jungle. I got a copy to review from First to Read.

I was looking forward to reading this book. The title and the short description intrigued me. Unfortunately, no matter how much I tried, I couldn't stay interested. And I really tried. I'm not sure that there was one thing that caused my disinterest -- the jumping from one story line to the other got on my nerves, and I kept feeling impatient for the story to move along. It's not a bad book; it just didn't appeal to me.

The author's writing style was not a good match for me, to put it mildly. It was trying so hard to be madcap, quirky and crude. I not so much abandoned this book as fled as quickly as I could. Others may like it so I suggest trying a preview before buying. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

I really really wanted to like this book. I just could not. Stopped reading around page 200 as I had other books to get to.

While I was intrigued by the synopsis of this book, it was not something I could get into. The writing style was very different and once I started reading it, found that I was not as interested in the subject matter as I originally thought. For these reasons, I did not finish the book.

Beaumon offers us an adventurous read involving lost temples, metaphysics, time travel, and, of course, the CIA.

Suspend your disbelief and get ready to get sucked in to the stepwise spiral of the lost temple of Honduras! Sniff some magic fungus and gain complete omniscience of everything going on between 1938 and 1956 except, somehow, the correct Axis/Allies matchup and outcome of WWII. This is like the Trading Places bet gone awry, as a playboy layabout heir and a scrappy orphan wannabe movie director find themselves in charge of rival expeditions that both arrive at an unexplored jungle temple with opposite aims. Despite proximity to a jungle guerrilla training camp and the natural predators and hardships of jungle survival, this standoff somehow lasts almost 20 years. Civilizations develop, power struggles happen due to interlopers like a gossip reporter and an escaped Nazi, and even the meddling of the CIA can't completely tip the power. A reporter-turned CIA operative more concerned with embarrassing a rival "intelligence" branch of the government is our narrator, as he is trying to piece together his first-hand and shroom-granted recollections to get to the bottom of how the temple drew everyone in and sustained them for so long, as well as what its possible purpose and affect on the wider world could be. This is Indiana Jones-esque zaniness along with some notable world-building...lots of fun!

This wacky work was something else! There's a lot to unpack, which I won't even begin to try in this space, but the descriptions of wild, insane, and astonishing are approximate. Unfamiliar with Beauman's work, I'm not sure if this experiment in active reading is typical, or if my choice of e-reader app gave me a more jumpy experience, but this novel definitely could use a flowchart or a map. It's not the internecine plot that has me most perplexed, but some of the stylistic choices. Tendencies best described as "sesquipedalian" undercut the authenticity of Depression-era dialogue and Cold War spycraft, and some tenuous character decisions either reappear without notice or drop off before laying the path. While the "ten-dollar words" (as one character puts it) are toned down after Part 2, the unfathomable character motivations never catch on - even after the narrator puts it down to titular madness. There are ingredients of pulp novels and Indiana Jones, time travel and Philosophy 101, and some scenes just too out of place - not for weirdness, but for inconsistency. Metatextuality hits hard in Part Four, and some implausibilities come across not so much clever as cross. The romp runs out of steam, in my opinion, in Act 5, with some improbable storylines that apparently couldn't be resolved and some conclusions impossible to place in the crazed chronology. Despite these impressions, I do think it's important to celebrate this novel for being something different, and yet familiar as pastiche. In turning some techniques and symbolic, archetypal edifices on their heads, much like the skewed Mayan temple at the center of all the madness, Beauman has provided a challenging text with enough genre appreciation to steady some semblance of normalcy. A worthy read, even if you feel, as one character puts it, astray in a gloomy wood.

I gave this book 100 pages. At first, I was willing to just go with the frivolity of the characters. Soon there were too many characters to keep track of, and I found myself skimming in an attempt to get to some action in the plot. It is rare for me not to finish a book, but this one is just not for me.

The discovery of a mysterious temple in the jungle of Honduras impacts the lives of many in Ned Beauman's Madness is Better Than Defeat. In the late 1930s two expeditions, one from New York that wants to take the temple apart at ship back to the States and another from Hollywood that wants to shoot a film on location with the temple, are both vying for the same temple hidden within the wilds of the jungle. When they coincidentally show up at the temple within days of each other, an odd relationship forms between them as they stubbornly refuse to leave the site in order to preserve their respective objective. As the decades pass with the two camps steady in their stalemate, a disorganized CIA investigation sparks some new life into the temple standoff.   Some intriguing concepts surrounding perception were raised throughout this narrative, and there's a hilarity to the nature of the stubborn stalemate between the two camps at the temple that mirrors humanity's seemingly innate desire to conquer. The writing is clever and easily demonstrates what ought to be conveyed, both explicitly and implicitly, but does have a tendency to wax on without an apparent direction. Though it helps to capture and portray the madness of the situation, the experimentation in format and timeline of events throughout to story made it more difficult to keep up and connect with, and the way the entire story fits together was a bit too contrived to make it seem at all realistic or probable.  Overall, I'd give it a 3 out of 5 stars.

Ok, I'm with the people who said it was complicated and confusing and random and all over the place - but unlike many, those things didn't intrigue me or grab me or make me read faster. They just lost me. I don't consider myself a lazy reader - I enjoy a book that makes me work for the story, as long as I have something (a character, a specific plot line/element, a setting) to latch onto. But somehow this one just didn't give me any such thing - I found myself floundering from the get-go, lost in decadence and what felt like unnecessarily complicated language (which made me wonder what the author was trying to hide, rather than pulled me in). This just wasn't a book for me...

I'm not sure how to describe this book. It was complicated and at times confusing. The timeline was hard to follow and the series of events sometimes confusing. But at the same time it hooked me. I wanted to get to the bottom of the mystery. It is such a bizarre story. I don't think I've ever read anything quite like it. I enjoyed the strangeness of it. There were strong characters, many likeable, some despiseable. It doesn't have chapters so I found myself having a hard time finding good stopping points, it just pulls you in and doesn't want to let go. I wouldn't recommend this to just anyone, but I did enjoy it. I'm curious to look into the authors other books.

What a zany cast of characters! I have never read Ned Beauman, and think I should have perhaps started with something shorter and simpler. That being said, it was a fun cerebral exercise to hack through his glorious reveling in words to keep to the trail of the story. The premise is fantastic, and I found myself getting caught up in the quirky personalities of the many characters. Whenever I stopped for a breather, it took a few pages to settle back in to the flow of it. I would compare him to Joyce, Pynchon, even Douglas Adams and Robert Shea. Not a beach book by any means, but if you want to exercise your mental muscles and work for the elaborate humor you'll uncover, this one is for you.


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