Tag Archives: The Mark and the Void

Books Reviewed 2015

Here is  housekeeping post, collecting all the books reviewed here in 2015.

Looking back at this list, I see that this year saw Terry Pratchette’s last book (a wrenching experience), and new novels by old favorites Stross, Perry, Macguire, Holt, Gaiman, among others. I also read older but still good histories by Goodwin and Graeber. I read several books about banking, Papal and otherwise, and overlapping works about Italy, fictional and (supposedly) real.

Over the year, I reviewed a sampling of important books about contemporary digital life, including cryptocurrency, the “sharing economy”, social media, and “mind change”.   These works covered a spectrum from enthusiasm to dark worry, giving us much to think about. There are many more I did not have time or energy for. (I will say more on this topic in another post)

Throughout 2015 I continued my ongoing investigation of the question, “what is coworking?”, including reviews of two recent (self published) books about coworking by practitioners. (More on coworking in another post.)

Shall I name some “Best Books” out of my list? Why not?


There were so many to pick from. I mean, with Neil Gaiman in the list, how can I choose? But let me mention two that are especially memorable

Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente
Very imaginative and well written, and, for once, not so horribly dark. This book lodged in my memory more than others that are probably equally good.

Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon
Published a few years ago, but I didn’t read it until this year. A wonderful, intricate story. The flight of the parrot is still in my memory.


There were many important works about digital life, and I shall try to comment on them in another post. But three books that really hit me are:

Debt: The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber
From several years ago, but I didn’t read it until this year. Highly influential on the ‘occupy’ and other left-ish thinking. This is an astonishingly good book, and long form anthropology, to boot. Wow!

Reimagination Station: Creating a Game-Changing In-Home Coworking Space by Lori Kane
An exlectic little self-published book about “home coworking”, which I didn’t know was a thing. Kane walked the walk, and made me think in new ways about community and coworking.

Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy by Sam Maggs
Unexpected amounts of fun reading this short book. It does an old, graying nerd no end of good to see that at least some of the kids are OK. Really, really, OK.

List of books reviewed in 2015


A Darkling Sea by James L. Cambias
After Alice by Gregory Maguire
Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson
Bats of the Republic by Zachary Thomas Dodson
Book of Numbers by Joshua Cohen
Chasing the Phoenix by Michael Swanwick
Candy Apple Red by Nancy Bush
Chicks and Balances edited by Esther Friesner and John Helfers
Corsair by James L. Cambias
Count to a Trillion by John C. Wright
Diaspora by Greg Egan
Distress by Greg Egan
Electric Blue by Nancy Bush
Forty Thieves by Thomas Perry
Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits by David Wong
Get In Trouble by Kelly Link
Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear
Koko the Mighty by Kieran Shea
Luna: New Moon by Ian McDonald
Mort(e) by Robert Repino
Numero Zero by Umberto Eco
Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente
Rebirths of Tao by Wesley Chu
Redeployment by Phil Klay
Satin Island by Tom McCarthy
Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore
Seveneves by Neal Stephenson
Shark Skin Suite by Tim Dorsey
String of Beads by Thomas Perry
Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon
The Annihilation Score by Charles Stross
The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of the Year Volume Nine ed. by Jonathan Strahan
The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro
The Enchantment Emporium by Tanya Huff
The First Bad Man by Miranda July
The Fortress in Orion by Mike Resnick
The Future Falls by Tanya Huff
The Good, the Bad, and The Smug by Tom Holt
The Mark and the Void by Paul Murray
The Relic Master by Christopher Buckley
The Rook by Daniel O’Malley
The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett
The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu
The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss by Max Wirestone
The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi
The Wild Ways by Tanya Huff
Time Salvager by Wesley Chu
To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis
Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman
Ultraviolet by Nancy Bush
We Are Pirates by Daniel Handler
Witches Be Crazy by Logan J. Hunder
Zer0es by Chuck Wendig

Non Fiction

Arrival of the Fittest by Andreas Wagner
Blue Mind by Wallace J. Nichols
Debt: The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber
Digital Gold by Nathaniel Popper
Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy by Sam Maggs
God’s Bankers by Gerald Posner
LaFayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell
Let’s Be Less Stupid by Patricia Marx
Live Right and Find Happiness by Dave Barry
Merchants in the Temple by Gianluigi Nuzzi
Mind Change by Susan Greenfield
Mindsharing by Lior Zoref
Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari
No More Sink Full of Mugs by Tony Bacigalupo
Not Impossible by Mick Ebeling
Pax Technica by Phillip N. Howard
Peers, Inc by Robin Chase
Reimagination Station: Creating a Game-Changing In-Home Coworking Space by Lori Kane
Speculative Everything by Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby
Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin
The Age of Cryptocurrency by Paul Vigna and Michael J. Casey
The Art of Forgery by Noah Charney
The Next Species by Michael Tennesen
The Reputation Economy by Michael Fertik and David C. Thompson
The Social Labs Revolution by Zaid Hassan
The Ugly Renaissance by Alexander Lee
Twentyfirst Century Robot by Brian David Johnson
Women of Will:  Following the Feminine in Shakespeare’s Plays by Tina Packer


Book Reviews











Book Review: “The Mark and the Void” by Paul Murray

The Mark and the Void by Paul Murray

It was inevitable that the 2009 crash would produce literature, and this book might be a start.

Irish writer Murray sets this novel in the International Financial Services Centre http://www.ifsc.ie/ in Dublin. This district is now infamous as an “offshore” tax haven and corporate boondoggle. Murray’s characters work there and give us a firsthand view of the appalling goings on. Is this autobiographical, or does he work from informants? In any case, the shenanigans are similar to reports from New York and elsewhere.

Amid the chaos of crashing markets, publicly funded bailouts for big companies and billionaires, and crushing “austerity” for the little guy, the story tracks the tensions of a banker who is navigating the financial world of imaginary, “virtual”, entities, the artistic world of writers and painters, and and the real lives of real people.

The characters are not all likable, but we sympathize with many of the imperfect specimens, even when they make decisions we wish they wouldn’t. Many of the people seem strangely clueless, missing the blatantly obvious in the midst of their own misery. On the other hand, many of them are blinded by love, or refuse to see the flaws of those they love.

Murray touches on some “big ideas” in the novel, clearly influenced by David Graeber (Debt: The First 5,000 Years, 2011) and the protest movements following the 2009 crash. He also portrays the misbehavior and incompetence in the financial sector and European governments. I believe he has exaggerated for a good story, but, unfortunately, his “satire” is appalling close to real life.

Murray also touches on art and art theory, including the obscure source for the title, “The Void and the Mark”. He clearly cares about this topic, but some of the discussion was dry and unreadable. For better or for worse, the book reads perfectly well if you skip all that.

The actual plot, such as it is, makes little sense. Given the artifice (e.g., one character is a writer named “Paul”), I don’t think we are supposed to take it seriously. One huge, huge, problem is that the protagonist is pretty oblivious to the people around him, so we see the “surprises” a hundred pages before he does.

The troubled writer in the story is deranged in his scamming, and he is incompetent, and irritating to boot. Much of the hustling is unpleasant to read, and not especially funny. For example, portrayal of his interactions with the publisher and his gay friends is excruciating, not amusing.

Overall, the characters are rife with stereotypes. We are treated to gruff Germans, troubled East European sex workers, weird Russian geniuses, brainless Cockney lads, sexy Greeks, and good hearted Aussies. Oh, and, of course, rich, fat, repulsive Americans. Sigh. Really? In the twenty first century?

Overall, this isn’t a bad read. It was inevitable that the 2009 crash would produce literature, but this book is no Grapes of Wrath. But it’s a start.


  1. Murray, Paul, The Mark and the Void, New York, Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, 2015.


Sunday Book Reviews