Book Review - Ratner’s Star

by Don Delillo (Picador) ISBN: 9780679722922 

Delillo first released this book in 1976 after undertaking a period of study in mathematics for fun. Anyone who can find mathematics fun is admirable in my view. As an enjoyable read however, this book didn’t add up for me. 

Boy genius Billy is the first person to win a Nobel Prize in Mathematics, his work understood by less than a handful of people worldwide. He is recruited by a strange and at times sinister group of well-funded scientists to decode a message that earth has received from outer space near Ratner’s Star. 

My experience of this novel is lodged somewhere between a Salman Rushdie novel and a George Orwell novel. That is, I could compute more meaning in the book than I could while reading Midnight’s Children, but it didn’t convey metaphorical meaning as effectively as 1984 or Animal Farm. I might simply not be smart enough to grasp the message or the maths. 

Justine Cullinan


Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.

Book Review - Zero K

by Don DeLillo (Picador) ISBN: 9781509822850

Not since his Underworld, which I read in 1998, have I been so singularly occupied by the body of thought presented in a novel as by Zero K.  To me it is a meditation on life and death in a time when life on earth seems apocalyptic and alternatives are available. 

Jeff Lockhart is invited to The Convergence, a remote cryogenic centre, by his billionaire father Ross to say goodbye to his terminally ill stepmother who will undergo the body freezing process hoping to return to life in a healthy condition. During his bewildering stay Jeff learns that the treatment is also available to people who choose to suspend living until they can return to a better world with better people. Ross has chosen this option but it takes another two years before he does it. 

His visits to The Convergence cause Jeff, who doesn’t commit to much, and who makes sense of people and events by naming and defining them, to reflect on life and how people try to control it. 

In just 274 pages of profound prose, DeLillo opens a visionary portal to questions of language, art and contemporary life that has yet to release its hold on me. 

Josine Overdevest


Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.