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The Sand Men

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A brand new contemporary thriller from bestselling crime and horror author Chris Fowler. In Dubai there’s a new world of high-luxury resorts emerging for the super-rich – but at what price to everyone else? Lea, Roy and their 15 year-old daughter Cara live in a gated community reserved for foreign workers. Roy has been hired to deal with teething problems at Dream World, a f A brand new contemporary thriller from bestselling crime and horror author Chris Fowler. In Dubai there’s a new world of high-luxury resorts emerging for the super-rich – but at what price to everyone else? Lea, Roy and their 15 year-old daughter Cara live in a gated community reserved for foreign workers. Roy has been hired to deal with teething problems at Dream World, a futuristic beach complex. In the oppressive heat, the wives appear happy to follow behind their husbands, cooking and arranging tea parties, but Lea finds herself a virtual prisoner in a land where Western women are regarded with indifference and suspicion. At least there are a few friendly outsiders who don’t enjoy the conformity of the ex-pat community - until one night, when the most outspoken one dies in a suspicious accident. It’s the first in a string of terrible occurrences that divide the foreign workers. Lea’s neighbours start to blame migrants, locals and even each other. Lea is convinced that deliberate acts of cruelty are being committed – but is there a real threat to her life, or is she becoming paranoid? And what if the thing she fears most is really happening? What happens in a world where only the rich are important? Welcome to a future that’s five minutes away, where rebellion against conformity can lead to the unthinkable …


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A brand new contemporary thriller from bestselling crime and horror author Chris Fowler. In Dubai there’s a new world of high-luxury resorts emerging for the super-rich – but at what price to everyone else? Lea, Roy and their 15 year-old daughter Cara live in a gated community reserved for foreign workers. Roy has been hired to deal with teething problems at Dream World, a f A brand new contemporary thriller from bestselling crime and horror author Chris Fowler. In Dubai there’s a new world of high-luxury resorts emerging for the super-rich – but at what price to everyone else? Lea, Roy and their 15 year-old daughter Cara live in a gated community reserved for foreign workers. Roy has been hired to deal with teething problems at Dream World, a futuristic beach complex. In the oppressive heat, the wives appear happy to follow behind their husbands, cooking and arranging tea parties, but Lea finds herself a virtual prisoner in a land where Western women are regarded with indifference and suspicion. At least there are a few friendly outsiders who don’t enjoy the conformity of the ex-pat community - until one night, when the most outspoken one dies in a suspicious accident. It’s the first in a string of terrible occurrences that divide the foreign workers. Lea’s neighbours start to blame migrants, locals and even each other. Lea is convinced that deliberate acts of cruelty are being committed – but is there a real threat to her life, or is she becoming paranoid? And what if the thing she fears most is really happening? What happens in a world where only the rich are important? Welcome to a future that’s five minutes away, where rebellion against conformity can lead to the unthinkable …

30 review for The Sand Men

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jen

    (I ended up giving this novel 4 stars, not for the story itself, but because it sent me into research that stunned me.) Initially, I was not at all sure what to say about this one. After reading it, it just seemed completely fantastical, and yet--there were elements that sounded so real that a little investigation was in order. Character development is usually very important to me, but I don't think the characters were at all what the author wanted you to think about--the characters really only (I ended up giving this novel 4 stars, not for the story itself, but because it sent me into research that stunned me.) Initially, I was not at all sure what to say about this one. After reading it, it just seemed completely fantastical, and yet--there were elements that sounded so real that a little investigation was in order. Character development is usually very important to me, but I don't think the characters were at all what the author wanted you to think about--the characters really only stand in to tell the behind the scenes story of Dubai. Even the plot, which veers from an intriguing look at a delusional world that actually exists to a kind of mythic, murderous cult situation has a point. A little bit The Stepford Wives, a little bit Rosemary's Baby, a lot of environmental criticism, and criticism of double standards, slavery, and a warped legal system. A novel that I almost dismissed when I finished, turned out to be a kind of allegory. Fair warning: this becomes a rant with a bunch of links. The complete review with links is on A Garden Carried in the Pocket.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Joanne Harris

    A taut and clever thriller; a tough and intelligent heroine; shades of Oz and The Stepford Wives; several grisly murders; some sharp and witty dialogue; an eerie and utterly gripping book, from which the city of Dubai rises like a marvellous mirage; dazzling, garish and surreal. All thrillers should be this well-written - sadly for the world, most are not.(I received a proof of this book from the publisher - one of the nicest perks of the job.)

  3. 4 out of 5

    HSB

    In its best parts - which luckily account for large parts of the book - The Sand Men appears to be on the point of veering off into one of many possible arcs that are such favorites with genre writers. It's to Fowler's credit that it doesn't. At various times, the books seems like it could be: A) A chronicle of the gradual descent into madness of an unreliable protagonist, B) A homage to Lovecraftian elder Gods, C) A fictionalized version of an expats nightmare vision of Dubai (as seen in the fa In its best parts - which luckily account for large parts of the book - The Sand Men appears to be on the point of veering off into one of many possible arcs that are such favorites with genre writers. It's to Fowler's credit that it doesn't. At various times, the books seems like it could be: A) A chronicle of the gradual descent into madness of an unreliable protagonist, B) A homage to Lovecraftian elder Gods, C) A fictionalized version of an expats nightmare vision of Dubai (as seen in the famous Independent article by Johann Hari, parts of which in turn have been accused of being 'fictionalized') D) A homage to JG Ballard with a heavy serving of post colonial angst. It's none of the above while still dabbling with all of the above. Lea accompanies her husband (a long out of work engineer) and daughter to Dubai, and is housed in a plush gated community. It's a supposed oasis away from the lives of less fortunate expats (the Indian construction workers for example) or the locals who are bound to adhere to a narrowly defined code of behavior. But Lea gradually realizes that her existence is not as insulated from the less savory aspects of life in Dubai as she'd imagined. Unable to find satisfaction in the quasi-colonial England lifestyle so many of her neighbours have slipped into, she attempts to kickstart her journalistic career in a market where the only journalism allowed or tolerated is sycophantic paens to progress and development. What follows is a nightmarish unraveling: missing teenage girls, orgies in an underpass, hints of ancient cults and sacrifices... In spite of being frequently Ballard-esque, The Sand Men works a lot better than Ballard's lesser books where the events that drive the protagonist seem either hopelessly contrived or unconvincing. Lea's disconnection from reality (or awareness of a barely hidden more terrifying reality) happen in a measured well paced manner with event after event gently nudging her closer to theories and revelations. The conclusion does strike me as a tad enigmatic, but it's wholly appropriate to the book. Highly recommended.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Indrani

    Thrillers are not usually my thing, and so anything more that I have to say about this book does need to be understood with that perspective in mind. It was part of a challenge to myself to break out of my sci-fi/fantasy box with reading this year that led me to pick this up off the library shelf. Mr. Fowler weaves a tale of the surreal life of the wives whose husbands work for a large construction firm in Dubai. On the surface, all seems well: there is a compound with comfortable housing, but li Thrillers are not usually my thing, and so anything more that I have to say about this book does need to be understood with that perspective in mind. It was part of a challenge to myself to break out of my sci-fi/fantasy box with reading this year that led me to pick this up off the library shelf. Mr. Fowler weaves a tale of the surreal life of the wives whose husbands work for a large construction firm in Dubai. On the surface, all seems well: there is a compound with comfortable housing, but little for the wives to do. They meet for coffee, have little craft clubs... ensure that their husbands are free to do their work without the intrusion of family drama. Into this world come Lea, her husband, and their teenaged daughter. There have been some marital problems in the recent past, and this is a family that is damaged, and trying to rebuild. Lea hopes that this will be a fresh start, a chance for her to be the good wife and mother. Only, strange things are going on beneath the surface: odd disappearances, workplace accidents, things that nobody talks about. And Lea, a former journalist, cannot let a good story lie. I had a number of issues in getting through the book. What could have been a thoughtful examination of life in a place where everything seems normal, but isn't, and the effect this has on the people within it became .... well, I'm not sure what it became. A somewhat supernatural plot twist seemed to be forced in (because people couldn't simply be greedy and have somewhat questionable morals in regards to workplace safety as they are chasing the dollar). A mad chase near the end falls into near-Roland Emmerich action-adventure. It felt as though the author had written himself into a corner, and was grasping at straws to get himself out of it. Character development simply wasn't. So, overall, a disappointing read, but not terrible (I did finish it). But this may just be that thrillers aren't my thing.

  5. 4 out of 5

    James Targett

    I don't normally do reviews, but this book has been making me itch. Thematically and stylistically it is solid; plotwise it is mostly okay but falls apart at the end - characters start behaving oddly, the lead is saved from two kidnappers by a deus ex machina that is never explained, people wander on and off stage at the plot's convenience, and everyone shuffles into place for an "ambiguous" end that introduce new elements in the last twenty pages which the rest of the book has ignored. The char I don't normally do reviews, but this book has been making me itch. Thematically and stylistically it is solid; plotwise it is mostly okay but falls apart at the end - characters start behaving oddly, the lead is saved from two kidnappers by a deus ex machina that is never explained, people wander on and off stage at the plot's convenience, and everyone shuffles into place for an "ambiguous" end that introduce new elements in the last twenty pages which the rest of the book has ignored. The characters are cardboard thin, inconsistent within their heads (one minute the daughter is a mall rat, teenage capitalist; next she is a rebel with a cause and there is never a clue or explanation as to how this happens, not even from the sections that are her point of view). And the husband-wife relationship: the guy is a distant asshat from the start. it never makes sense why they are together. It is frustrating as there is a good book in here, waiting to get out. which is what makes my brain it as I can see how to fix it.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Donald

    A Fowlerian twist on the Ballardian dystopia, with a bit of Stepford Wives thrown in for good measure. The playground of the rich and famous has moved on from Ballard's French Riveria setting of his later novels to the shifting sands and reclaimed lands of the UAE. A glittering trio of luxury towers is enticing the best men from around the world to smooth out all it's problems, leaving their spouses and kids to fester in a luxurious gated community. Of course everything is not quite as it seems, A Fowlerian twist on the Ballardian dystopia, with a bit of Stepford Wives thrown in for good measure. The playground of the rich and famous has moved on from Ballard's French Riveria setting of his later novels to the shifting sands and reclaimed lands of the UAE. A glittering trio of luxury towers is enticing the best men from around the world to smooth out all it's problems, leaving their spouses and kids to fester in a luxurious gated community. Of course everything is not quite as it seems, and mysterious accidents are occuring, children are disappearing, and the police and security do little more than a cursory investigation before deporting a disgruntled foreign worker or two. The workers are slaves, the wives are robots and people keep dying . . .

  7. 4 out of 5

    Ine Sinac

    Very disappointing. It started out very well and interesting but I was so annoyed by the characters and their totally illogic actions and reactions it really spoiled the story. Towards the end it really gets out of hand as Lea takes sleeping pills!! while being fully aware of the upcoming danger. She had a conflict with her daughter trying to convince her of the danger she is in; she discovers that jet another person (André Pignot) was murdered and she takes sleeping pills!! Sorry, I can't go al Very disappointing. It started out very well and interesting but I was so annoyed by the characters and their totally illogic actions and reactions it really spoiled the story. Towards the end it really gets out of hand as Lea takes sleeping pills!! while being fully aware of the upcoming danger. She had a conflict with her daughter trying to convince her of the danger she is in; she discovers that jet another person (André Pignot) was murdered and she takes sleeping pills!! Sorry, I can't go along with such nonsensical characters.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Aimee

    An interesting setting, but the pacing was off and too many elements were introduced too late on in the plot. The ending also felt a bit flat, not the final showdown I was hoping for. It's a shame because there were good elements that could have been played up more, such as the mistreatment of migrant workers and the sexual exploitation of women trafficked to see to the men's "needs", but while this felt important at the start it seemed almost forgotten by the end. An interesting setting, but the pacing was off and too many elements were introduced too late on in the plot. The ending also felt a bit flat, not the final showdown I was hoping for. It's a shame because there were good elements that could have been played up more, such as the mistreatment of migrant workers and the sexual exploitation of women trafficked to see to the men's "needs", but while this felt important at the start it seemed almost forgotten by the end.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen Gray

    Thanks NETGALLEY for the ARC of this thriller. Recommend to anyone looking for something in a different setting (not many books set in expat communities anywhere, much less in Dubai) and with a social conscience. I liked it, even though it did get a little out there every once in a while.

  10. 5 out of 5

    David

    Interesting concept but rather poorly conceived. Had echoes if Ira levins work especially Rosemary's baby. Character actions were illogical at best and the ending faded away into confusion with no real resolution. A disappointment from a usually reliable author. Interesting concept but rather poorly conceived. Had echoes if Ira levins work especially Rosemary's baby. Character actions were illogical at best and the ending faded away into confusion with no real resolution. A disappointment from a usually reliable author.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Chris Amies

    Lea follows her husband Roy from Chiswick to Dubai, where Roy is working on a building project designed to bring in wealthy holidaymakers. With their 15-year-old daughter Cara they move to a gated community, where there is little for journalist Lea to actually do. Determined to write about things other than shopping and celebrity she begins to confront the nature of the place she must now call home. Sure enough, there have been mysterious deaths. People vanish. Read the rest at: http://terror-tre Lea follows her husband Roy from Chiswick to Dubai, where Roy is working on a building project designed to bring in wealthy holidaymakers. With their 15-year-old daughter Cara they move to a gated community, where there is little for journalist Lea to actually do. Determined to write about things other than shopping and celebrity she begins to confront the nature of the place she must now call home. Sure enough, there have been mysterious deaths. People vanish. Read the rest at: http://terror-tree.co.uk/2016/01/the-...

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Casemore

    A very strange book. The writing is engaging and flows well and I didn’t want to stop reading. But the story is very implausible, not necesssarily the subject and plot but the way things progress and escalate. Lots of aspects of the story were either vague or unexplained. I finished the book wondering perhaps if the protagonist was in fact delusional the whole time.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Karl

    This was absolutely brilliant until it hit about 100 pages to go - I don't know if it was deliberate or Fowler wasn't sure how far to take it but a brilliant set up didn't have that finish that it so deserved. Still recommend it for fans of Fowler, love his writing style and command of prose that is so underrated these days. This was absolutely brilliant until it hit about 100 pages to go - I don't know if it was deliberate or Fowler wasn't sure how far to take it but a brilliant set up didn't have that finish that it so deserved. Still recommend it for fans of Fowler, love his writing style and command of prose that is so underrated these days.

  14. 5 out of 5

    RolloTreadway

    Had to stop nearly halfway through - I feel a gave it more than a fair chance, but the characters are so shallow and bland, and fit so squarely into generic form, that I can't spend any more time in their company. Sorry. Maybe something amazing happens to them later on and I'm making a terrible mistake: always possible, but I don't really care, because there's nothing that has made me care. Had to stop nearly halfway through - I feel a gave it more than a fair chance, but the characters are so shallow and bland, and fit so squarely into generic form, that I can't spend any more time in their company. Sorry. Maybe something amazing happens to them later on and I'm making a terrible mistake: always possible, but I don't really care, because there's nothing that has made me care.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Gary

    When I started reading I was reminded of JG Ballard's Cocaine Nights (a brutally compelling story) but unfortunately this is a limp read in comparison. I love Mr Fowler's books normally but this one falls short of his best. When I started reading I was reminded of JG Ballard's Cocaine Nights (a brutally compelling story) but unfortunately this is a limp read in comparison. I love Mr Fowler's books normally but this one falls short of his best.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Echo

    Captured a lot of interest from the beginning but then petered out toward the final third and the ending left me dissatisfied.

  17. 5 out of 5

    David Harris

    I'm grateful to the publisher for a advance e-copy of this book via NetGalley. It's safe to say The Sand Men book won't end up being recommended by the Dubai Tourist Board. It is a work of fiction with at its heart an (obviously) fantastical plot device which no-one is going to confuse with reality. No offence there then. But in its more mundane aspects it is implicitly scathing about the treatment of migrant workers, the double standards of a state prepared to look the other way from the antics o I'm grateful to the publisher for a advance e-copy of this book via NetGalley. It's safe to say The Sand Men book won't end up being recommended by the Dubai Tourist Board. It is a work of fiction with at its heart an (obviously) fantastical plot device which no-one is going to confuse with reality. No offence there then. But in its more mundane aspects it is implicitly scathing about the treatment of migrant workers, the double standards of a state prepared to look the other way from the antics of expat Westerners (until some line is crossed) and the environmental hubris of building an artificial ski slope in the burning desert. Above all, it paints a deeply depressing picture of life among those well-paid expat engineers, architects and managers and their wives. (The spouses are generally wives: a deeply conservative culture seems to obtain where it's the men who are employed on the construction projects while wives endure an almost Colonial style of life in the walled compound - generally bored out of their minds and skewered by that double standard I mentioned above). So, if you knew you disliked the whole idea of Dubai but weren't quite sure why, this book might sharpen up your views. In other words, while this is basically a thriller, Fowler is also engaging with the society he depicts, and a very peculiar one it is. Lea, Cara and Roy are newcomers to Dubai, innocents stepping off the plane into a new world. For Roy, his position on the luxurious Dream World resort project is the last chance, after he's been out of work for months, of making it as an architect. Dream World is behind schedule and must catch up. or the mysterious Chinese/ Russian backers of the project will not be pleased. For daughter Cara, the move is an unwelcome wrench from her London school and friends - yet possibly an opportunity to grow up, live a bit, and widen her horizons. For Lea, a journalist who supported the family though lean times, it's pretty much a prison sentence - more of less confined to the company compound and constrained, as a wife, by a set of conventions right out of the 50s - the 1850s, that is: Fowler describes the way of life you might get crossing Stepford with a hill station under the Raj ("...as if she had been stationed in some doomed and distant fort owned by the East India Company...") Most of the story indeed focuses on Lea (after a gruesome introductory scene in which an Indian engineer dies horribly) with a few episodes from Cara's or Roy's point of view. We see Lea's optimism that she might find some local role writing for a magazine fade (investigative journalism is not encouraged, what's wanted are pieces on the joys of water skiing or shopping) to be replaced by a growing paranoia and a quest to discover why there are so many deaths and disappearances among the expats and their families. Meanwhile Cara makes those new friends ("Cara was unsure whether Norah meant good-sick or bad-sick") and Roy works longer and longer shifts, rising in Dream World Group and changing, demanding that Lea fulfil that alien wifely role ("The women around here are throwbacks. it's as if feminism never happened. And I think the men all secretly like it that way...") The family seems to be fracturing. Do they even need Lea any longer? Nominally a housewife she doesn't even have much to do at home as there is a frighteningly efficient and apparently compulsory maid to take care of things (the maids are rumoured to be spies for Dream World Group). Just what is her role? What will she do? Lea tries to reach out and make friends, but only seems to get on with those already marked down as trouble-makers. As events in the compound - and at Dream World - begin to go awry, Lea sets out to discover what's behind them. Is it just normal slapdash, devil-take-the-hindmost capitalism, or is there more going on? And in either case, who can she trust? Replete with references to the Emerald City of Oz ("look behind the curtain") and to Kubla Khan's Xanada and introduced with a quote from JG Ballard (who else?) this is an excellent story, contrasting the gaudy neon excess of the hotels, bars and shopping malls with the timeless darkness of the desert - which was there first, and will be there after: "...Round the decay/ Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare/ The lone and level sands stretch far away." (PB Shelley, Ozymandias).

  18. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    The modern Middle East is a melting pot of cultures and ideas; the old and the new are in constant battle with one another as the region is continually attempts to reinvent itself. Christopher Fowler uses this state of flux as the basis for his latest work. Technology and Western consumerism are taking hold in an area of the world where history and tradition have long held sway. Everything is shiny and new. The culture seems welcoming and progressive, but beneath the wafer thin veneer of futuris The modern Middle East is a melting pot of cultures and ideas; the old and the new are in constant battle with one another as the region is continually attempts to reinvent itself. Christopher Fowler uses this state of flux as the basis for his latest work. Technology and Western consumerism are taking hold in an area of the world where history and tradition have long held sway. Everything is shiny and new. The culture seems welcoming and progressive, but beneath the wafer thin veneer of futurist civility lurks something disturbing. Just exactly who are the Sand Men, and what is it that they want? Into this newly forming chaotic, capitalist haven comes a typical 21st century family. The majority of the narrative follows Lea as she tries to adapt to her new life. The stark differences between London and the Middle East feel almost palpable. There are a host of new rules to understand and scores of societal conventions that must be observed. In many respects, Dubai is a complete anathema to Lea. Watching her efforts as she initially attempts to conform are fascinating. At first glance, everything appears to be perfect. Great family, great home, positive prospects but the more you read the more you realise that much of this perfection is superficial at best. The changes are no less subtle in Roy and Cara. Roy embraces the corporate lifestyle with relish and swiftly becomes someone almost unrecognisable to the rest of his family. The lifestyle they have found themselves part of seems so far removed from the norm it is almost like a living dream. His job is all about achieving perfection, irrespective of the cost, and he becomes completely obsessed about hitting this target. Meanwhile, ignored by both parents, Cara drifts away from the rest of the family and bonds with other ex-pat teens. Her hopes of a new life quickly sours, and she is drawn to an unexpected outlet for her teenage angst. For all three, Dubai initially appears to be the affluent playground of their dreams, but as we all know appearances can often be deceptive. The Sand Men manages the trickiest of tasks with aplomb. Tackling potentially contentious issues like the gender gap, religious intolerance and the rise of rampant consumerism with a delicate touch. Part character study and part social commentary the engrossing plot explores the nature of family dynamics while picking apart how modern life seems designed to break the family unit up into its component pieces. Underneath all this insight, there is a delightfully sinister undercurrent that flows throughout the entire narrative. Is Lea suffering from some form of mental illness, are all her problems imagined, or is there someone or something external who is ultimately responsible? Fowler keeps the reader guessing and each new chapter ramps up the sense of tension inch by inch. There is nothing bombastic or overt about the Sand Men. Like his previous work, Nyctophobia, this is an exercise in subtly. This novel is a template for how good psychological horror should be. That growing feeling of unease, about recognising how uncomfortable we are made by the unfamiliar. The acknowledgement of the dread that can occur in our own existence. This is a novel about that moment of realisation, that split second where you know a situation is inherently wrong but having to accept that you have come too far and there is not a damn thing that you can do about it. Using his writing to put society under the microscope the author is trying to understand what it is that makes us all tick. Christopher Fowler once again delivers first class fiction that manages the enviable task of being entertaining, engrossing and thought provoking in a single stroke.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sam Sattler

    Having lived the ex-pat life in a Muslim country or two (although only in the poorer, more politically chaotic ones), I was immediately drawn to the premise for Christopher Fowler’s The Sand Men. Fowler’s novel happens to be set in Dubai, one of the richest of the Arab countries - but what even the richest Muslim nations have in common with the poorest ones is a huge divide between the rich and the poor. It is almost as if the two groups live on different planets, and ex-pats thrown into the mix Having lived the ex-pat life in a Muslim country or two (although only in the poorer, more politically chaotic ones), I was immediately drawn to the premise for Christopher Fowler’s The Sand Men. Fowler’s novel happens to be set in Dubai, one of the richest of the Arab countries - but what even the richest Muslim nations have in common with the poorest ones is a huge divide between the rich and the poor. It is almost as if the two groups live on different planets, and ex-pats thrown into the mix do not always handle themselves properly when exposed to such a glaring contrast. Lea and Roy Brook are in the financial struggle of their lives in London when Roy receives a job offer from a company building several luxury hotels in Dubai. Roy is out of work and the young family is simply hanging on for dear life, so Roy’s acceptance of the job offer is really a no-brainer. But after she has moved into the huge company-housing compound with Roy and their fifteen-year-old daughter, Lea begins to wonder about their decision. The ex-pat compound has developed a subculture of its own, one that is only remotely similar to anything that Lea has previously experienced. The ex-pat wives, although they are not forced to give up any of their rights, are almost eager to spend their days in mindless cooking classes, ladies groups, and puttering around the house while their husbands do the important work. These women may not be quite of the Stepford Wife variety, but they are most definitely the next best thing. Lea, a magazine writer in her old life, is not content to live that way for the two-year term of her husband’s work contract, and almost immediately, her attitude brings her to the attention of a handful of likeminded spirits – and a few sinister people who want to keep her from stirring up trouble. The Sand Men is one of those thrillers in which the good guys find it almost impossible to tell the difference between ally and enemy – and as players come and go, Fowler makes certain that his readers face the same dilemma. When a long series of very strange accidents begins to claim the lives of those Lea feels closest to, she senses that time is running out for her. She either has to figure out what is happening and stop it, or she has to run for her life. But whom can she trust? As Joseph Heller put it in Catch-22, “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.” The Sand Men provides quite a thriller ride for those able to reach the proper level of suspended disbelief. If you’re willing to go there, this one might be for you.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Charon Lloyd-Roberts

    And I remember picking this book up last month and I was interested in the story and concept and for once it was something different so I just had to get it and well compared to what I've read this was a little different and I welcomed this books story with open arms and in the end I wasn't disappointed. A summery for The Sand Men: In Dubai there's a new world of high-luxury resorts emerging for the super-rich-but at the price of everyone else? Lea, Roy and their 15 year-old daughter Cara live in a And I remember picking this book up last month and I was interested in the story and concept and for once it was something different so I just had to get it and well compared to what I've read this was a little different and I welcomed this books story with open arms and in the end I wasn't disappointed. A summery for The Sand Men: In Dubai there's a new world of high-luxury resorts emerging for the super-rich-but at the price of everyone else? Lea, Roy and their 15 year-old daughter Cara live in a gated community reserved for foreign workers. Roy has been hired to deal with teething problems at Dream World, a futuristic beach complex. In the oppressive heat, the wives appear happy to follow behind their husbands, cooking and arranging tea parties, but Lea finds herself a virtual prisoner in a land where Western women are regarded with indifference and suspicion. At least there are a few friendly outsiders who don't enjoy the conformity of the ex-pat community-until one night, when the most outspoken one dies in a suspicious accident. It's the first in a string of terrible occurrences that divide the foreign workers. Lea's neighbours start to blame migrants, locals and even each other. Lea is convinced that deliberate acts of cruelty are being committed-but is there a real threat to her life, or is she being paranoid? And what if what she fears most is really happening? Welcome to a future that's five minutes away, where rebellion against conformity can lead to the unthinkable... I am considering re-reading this again...Well mostly because I binge read the rest of but hey who knows I might've missed some details or something and also this book does make a load of modern day references including the likes of singers, devices and general things that we all own well some of us if had the money. Anyway it was good read and I enjoyed the story also a book set in Dubai was a nice change for once.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jack Haringa

    For the first 250 pages, Christopher Fowler's The Sand Men is the best J.G. Ballard novel that J.G. Ballard didn't write. It fits neatly with the latter run of the late author's work, echoing themes and settings present in Cocaine Nights, Super-Cannes, and Kingdom Come: the dissociation of the ex-patriot, the isolating irreality of the mega-rich enclaves, the futility of noncomformity in gated communities, it's all here. This is a knowing homage that incorporates Ballard's distinctive style, mel For the first 250 pages, Christopher Fowler's The Sand Men is the best J.G. Ballard novel that J.G. Ballard didn't write. It fits neatly with the latter run of the late author's work, echoing themes and settings present in Cocaine Nights, Super-Cannes, and Kingdom Come: the dissociation of the ex-patriot, the isolating irreality of the mega-rich enclaves, the futility of noncomformity in gated communities, it's all here. This is a knowing homage that incorporates Ballard's distinctive style, melding it with Fowler's own to keep from being pure pastiche. But Fowler is also--perhaps primarily--a horror author, and the horrific inevitably asserts itself in his work. As with his previous novel, the exceptional Nyctophobia, Fowler treads a line of ambiguity. There might be something deeper and more far-reaching than the wealthy hands guiding the construction of the Dream World resort in Dubai. The protagonist's observations are called into question, not only by people who might have ulterior motives but also by her own self-examination, and we are offered rational and realistic explanations for events. Fowler uses all of this material to touch on many contemporary concerns, from the problematic nature of cultural imperialism to the exploitation of working classes in projects driven by globalized economics. As with most Ballard novels, Fowler's book is a slow burn, and there are significant events that happen "off screen," which might frustrate some readers. The plotting is deliberate and the descriptions careful, all of which leads to a rewarding read in the end.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    A British family relocates to Dubai so that the engineer husband can pursue the job of his dreams in this suspenseful thriller. Told through Lea's voice, Lea, Roy and 15 year-old Cara begin a new life in a gated community in Dubai surrounded by all of the other families involved with the building of Dream World a modern luxury resort that is plagued with mysterious problems including several child abductions and bizarre accidents. Lea who is a writer begins to investigate the mysteries which ver A British family relocates to Dubai so that the engineer husband can pursue the job of his dreams in this suspenseful thriller. Told through Lea's voice, Lea, Roy and 15 year-old Cara begin a new life in a gated community in Dubai surrounded by all of the other families involved with the building of Dream World a modern luxury resort that is plagued with mysterious problems including several child abductions and bizarre accidents. Lea who is a writer begins to investigate the mysteries which very few seem interested in really solving, and the dangers quickly begin to escalate. I usually really enjoy stories where the setting virtually becomes another character in the story, and this novel was no exception. Dubai was a perfect choice for Dream World as the story depicts the differences between the have and have-nots in a world where modern technology and luxuries meets up with cultures and peoples operating within ancient traditions and humble lifestyles. I found myself loving this story up until the time that Lea "solves" the mystery; as soon as the Ka'al is revealed the story seemed to take a complete turn in tone and action so I can only give this three stars. I did not care for the ending and ultimately expected a different turn of events given the first parts of the book. I would definitely read this author again though since I did enjoy the characters and the story.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Alecia

    Desperate Housewives meets H.P. Lovecraft. This started out slow, gradually built momentum, but ultimately left me with an overall feeling of "Huh?" Lea Brooks and her husband Roy are starting over in a new country. They are lured from a disaffected existence in London to Dubai, where Roy has the job opportunity of a lifetime. He will be helping to build Dream Worlds, an amusement park for the 1% of the 1%, where Las Vegas meets Disneyland. But Lea has left behind a successful, glamorous life as Desperate Housewives meets H.P. Lovecraft. This started out slow, gradually built momentum, but ultimately left me with an overall feeling of "Huh?" Lea Brooks and her husband Roy are starting over in a new country. They are lured from a disaffected existence in London to Dubai, where Roy has the job opportunity of a lifetime. He will be helping to build Dream Worlds, an amusement park for the 1% of the 1%, where Las Vegas meets Disneyland. But Lea has left behind a successful, glamorous life as a magazine writer and is unfulfilled by her new life as a "trailing spouse" in a company town. The first half of the book consists of Lea's complaints and criticisms about the city, her husband and daughter, and her new neighbors. Somehow, the author manages to make the reader feel sympathy rather than contempt for Lea. But her discovery of the central mystery comes too fast; Lea has no plan to deal with it; there are zero consequences for the bad guys; and the story ends on a completely ambiguous note.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Vroom

    I'm going to give the Sand Men three stars although to be honest I have not yet finished reading it. I bought a copy based on coverage over at Civilian Reader and it's been dragging for whatever reason. I plan to come back to finishing it but as far as I can tell, I can't write up a partial review over here without giving it a star rating. I settled on three stars, "I liked it". The book explores a surrealistic world of expatriates, placed into a foreign desert, living unnatural lives. From air c I'm going to give the Sand Men three stars although to be honest I have not yet finished reading it. I bought a copy based on coverage over at Civilian Reader and it's been dragging for whatever reason. I plan to come back to finishing it but as far as I can tell, I can't write up a partial review over here without giving it a star rating. I settled on three stars, "I liked it". The book explores a surrealistic world of expatriates, placed into a foreign desert, living unnatural lives. From air conditioned beaches to live-in servants to modern malls where westerners buy luxury goods in an ultra-conservative country with secret police and active slavery, it's a fascinating basis for storytelling. I just wish it was more actual ethnography and less mystery story. Strange neighbors, unexplained deaths, overworked spouses, etc just seem like they'd work better from real world experiences than Agatha-Christie-in-a-Sand-Dune. Liking it but not loving it.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Michael Dodd

    The stark contrast between its gleaming modernity and deep-rooted middle-eastern conservatism makes Dubai an ideal setting for a sort-of-science-fiction thriller, so Christopher Fowler’s The Sand Men seems an intriguing prospect. Promising a look under the surface of a modern technological utopia, it sees the Brook family move from their old life in London to a gated community set up for the families of the men brought over to work on Dream World, a vast, sprawling hotel complex offering every l The stark contrast between its gleaming modernity and deep-rooted middle-eastern conservatism makes Dubai an ideal setting for a sort-of-science-fiction thriller, so Christopher Fowler’s The Sand Men seems an intriguing prospect. Promising a look under the surface of a modern technological utopia, it sees the Brook family move from their old life in London to a gated community set up for the families of the men brought over to work on Dream World, a vast, sprawling hotel complex offering every luxury for the most wealthy visitors to the country. Once there, the realities of life for Western outsiders start to become clear, with the family fragmenting while dark secrets start coming to light. Read the rest of the review at https://trackofwords.wordpress.com/20...

  26. 5 out of 5

    Gina

    A British woman moves to Dubai with her engineer husband and daughter. He has been given a chance for a great job to work on a new luxury resort complex. They live in a gated community with every convenience. Soon she becomes bored with her life there, her husband is always working and her daughter has found new friends. As she gets to know her neighbors she begins to suspect that there is something sinister going on. There have been accidents and disappearances of several young people. She is d A British woman moves to Dubai with her engineer husband and daughter. He has been given a chance for a great job to work on a new luxury resort complex. They live in a gated community with every convenience. Soon she becomes bored with her life there, her husband is always working and her daughter has found new friends. As she gets to know her neighbors she begins to suspect that there is something sinister going on. There have been accidents and disappearances of several young people. She is determined to find out what is going on, but it could put her life in danger as well. This book offers criticism about development in environmentally fragile areas, extreme consumerism by the affluent, inequality, corporate immorality, and injustice.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    This book is many things. There's a lot of JG Ballard in the isolation of the expat compound and the stunning artifice of the luxury hotel. It's a homage to Ira Levin, especially The Stepford Wives and Rosemary's Baby, it's an impassioned rant against the treatment of migrant workers in Dubai, and it's an ecological metaphor, where the theme of children disappearing around the hotel can be read as a commentary on how short term profit seeking ignores the consequences for the future. The ending i This book is many things. There's a lot of JG Ballard in the isolation of the expat compound and the stunning artifice of the luxury hotel. It's a homage to Ira Levin, especially The Stepford Wives and Rosemary's Baby, it's an impassioned rant against the treatment of migrant workers in Dubai, and it's an ecological metaphor, where the theme of children disappearing around the hotel can be read as a commentary on how short term profit seeking ignores the consequences for the future. The ending is maybe a bit too ambiguous for my tastes, but nevertheless it's fun getting there. Well worth a read.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Polly Krize

    I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. With a gutsy heroine and an intriguing resort in Dubai that is more prison than paradise, this thriller is well worth reading. Development at Dream World seems to be fraught with murder and the mistreatment of migrant workers, and Lea finds herself a virtual hostage in a country where women are second class citizens at the very best. The unexplainable disappearances of young people sends her on a quest to discover what is beneath th I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. With a gutsy heroine and an intriguing resort in Dubai that is more prison than paradise, this thriller is well worth reading. Development at Dream World seems to be fraught with murder and the mistreatment of migrant workers, and Lea finds herself a virtual hostage in a country where women are second class citizens at the very best. The unexplainable disappearances of young people sends her on a quest to discover what is beneath the beautiful exterior. Recommended.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Federico

    I really like Fowler's writing style. This is a nice story, intriguing enough and full of meaning. Not a masterpiece, to be honest, but pretty much enjoyable. And, by the way, CF uses some exotic words that I never heard before (I'm not a native English speaker) such as 'lurid', and he does it in a way that doesn't sound pretentious. I really like Fowler's writing style. This is a nice story, intriguing enough and full of meaning. Not a masterpiece, to be honest, but pretty much enjoyable. And, by the way, CF uses some exotic words that I never heard before (I'm not a native English speaker) such as 'lurid', and he does it in a way that doesn't sound pretentious.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    As a work of fiction, this story didn't really do it for me. But it does point out some larger, real world issues about privilege and how those in power may view migrant and/or blue-collar workers as expendable and easily replaced. As a work of fiction, this story didn't really do it for me. But it does point out some larger, real world issues about privilege and how those in power may view migrant and/or blue-collar workers as expendable and easily replaced.

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