Book Reviews - "As I Died Laughing"

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Jim Holroyd (September 6, 2016)

This is the first “book” I have read on my phone. My phone has a Kindle app, not sure how it compares with an actual Kindle, as I have never used one. It was an interesting experience, I’m still more comfortable with paper based books, but the Kindle app has advantages like the ability to highlight text, to change the size of the font and at night you don’t need to turn a light on to read. It is interesting that the first book I read on the phone has much about modern communication: email, chat rooms, WebQuests etc… and the difficulties of communication between people online and offline.

There was a comment about blogs that struck me:

“It’s like the blogs you write.”
“What about them ?”
“It’s not as if people are flocking to read them.”

The main story is about relationships between people, especially one particular relationship: Michael feels his marriage has become mundane and lacks something and creates a virtual character Guy, to seduce his wife Julia. This, as you can imagine, is a bad idea, particularly when Julia starts to fall for this alt, who she knows only through emails.

The action flits between Canada and Israel, not too much of a surprise, as the author is a Canadian now living in the Negev Desert. The author himself even makes a couple of appearances, interacting with his protagonist Michael. David Lloyd is not the first author to do this, Clive Cussler, Stephen King and even Somerset Maugham have done this. It is intriguing in a way, the author visiting his own creation as his protagonist is also the creator of a fictitious character.

“Maybe I just don’t know what is real and what isn’t“

Read the whole review on Jim Holroyd's blog for book reviews and reading.

Steve Hellman
(March 4, 2012)

Like millions the world over, David Llloyd's principal characters are only keystrokes away from challenging dilemmas and fantasies each time they sit down alone at their computers. No explicit explanation is offered as to why Michael and Julia set out to explore new aspects of their identities when they begin a secret virtual correspondence . It is here that I identify the strength of this book. Time and again I found myself thinking how easily so many of the people I know could take the same road. There is nothing about Michael to persuade me that given the right circumstances I might not well take similar decisions. Julia's responses are totally credible and logical. This is an intriguing tale of happenstance and impulse rather than of tragic personality flaws slowly unraveled by the plot.

The setting flits between Canada and Israel and adds some interesting sociological and cultural insights, not the least of which is the introduction of the lovely Layla. Is this a red herring or the foreshadowing of a political possibly even a terrorist element?

While there is plenty to think and surmise about in this book, the calm easy pace is deceptive. One needs to know how it will end. The ending however, is neither happy nor complete. It is entirely consistent with a plot which focuses on the uncertain journeys of its principal characters as they unwittingly put their everyday "real" relationships to the test. As I Died Laughing is one of the best reads I have had of late.

Jeane Lloyd (January 12, 2012)

The ending did not surprise me, although its abruptness did. But then, this added to its effectiveness. I had thought that "Michael" might walk into the Sea and disappear, thinking that two of them were one too many.

It is an interesting book and well-written, so I congratulate David for undertaking and finishing such a big project. I appreciate how he used his personal knowledge of Toronto, Israel, and the government of a kibbutz.

I thought "Guy" presented the Reader with another variation of the theoretical propagation of man in matter. First, we had him coming from the dust of the ground. Next, from a rib of man, and then from a fertilized egg. Now, from a thought. To me, Michael's downfall was that he ended up believing it.

I am left with an unanswered question. When did "Julia" realize what was happening?

A story well told leaves one thinking. I would say that "As I Died Laughing" is a thinking person's book.

Richard Biggs (January 9, 2012)

As I Died Laughing is a wonderful story that is told from multiple points of view. I have classified it as a psychological foray into a variety of interesting characters, all with unusual quirks, as they attempt to separate reality from the virtual. It is a complex book and for many with short interest spans it will seem too complicated. It is definitely a book you have to re-read to fully understand all the twists. I found it a fascinating story but sometimes felt I was at a party where people kept coming and going.

David Lloyd is obviously a talented writer and I look forward to his next book.

Donna Flor (December 6, 2011)

In the beginning of the novel, we are bombarded by an introduction of characters. At first, I found this confusing. But, as the different plots progressed and I began to understand the characters’ parts in each one, I realized we were truly experiencing the world through Michael’s eyes. Michael's world is divided into three: his daily life as a teacher, husband and father in Toronto; the book he is writing which takes place both in Israel and Canada; and the virtual character that he has created to seduce his wife. There are no clear divisions between these worlds in Michael's mind, and we are effectively led to view the world around him in the same way.

Creation is one of the main themes in the book, and we must ask ourselves: is the concept of creation here closer to God’s creating man in his own image and likeness, or the creation of a Dr. Frankenstein. There is an interesting point in the book (beware of spoilers) when immediately after Michael and Merav make love for the first and only time, they are suddenly aware of their nakedness - much as if they had tasted from the tree of knowledge and now understand their own limitations. Yet, the wanderings of Michael’s virtual creation and the disastrous effect this has on Michael’s world may be closer to the story of Frankenstein.

The notion of creation is furthered by the choice of names. Michael means - “who is like God”, and Michal is a feminine derivation of this. The fact that Michael appears in the real world and Michal in his story of fiction, may show that not only is she a feminine image of him - their roles reversed in his and her story - but that very little, if anything, separates fact and fiction. As for further possible biblical references: Mark, a leading character in Michael’s novel, can be seen as an apostle documenting the demise of his master through his own personal story. And Mary, Michael’s close friend, is the first to hear his confession.

I felt that the dialogue throughout the novel rang true. I thought it was especially clever the way in which the two children at the beginning spoke in their own made up dialect out of choice, while the butchered English spoken by the owner of the Israeli gallery towards the end was one of necessity. Neither he nor the children cared what others made out of this. Words play such a central part in these stories, weaving a web which bring them together.

I have read many a book where all is find until I get to the ending, but I felt here that the ending fit the book well. Simple and understated, justice was found, perhaps leaving us with a moral that each of us will interpret differently. It is not an especially happy ending, but then how could it be?

With books of this type, I like to go back and read the book again - which I have done with this novel. And I picked up a lot of things the second time around that I had missed, or not completely grasped the first time. This is a book that I may use with my literature class, as so many things can be explored further and discussed.

In conclusion, one can only ask why it took this author so long to write his first novel. I hope we will see another one from him soon.

Sara Bergman (October 30, 2011)

Finished reading late at night, couldn't put it down, this is definitely a page turner. This is an outstandingly vast and complex big picture, and putting the puzzle pieces together (and watching how the author chose to put them together) is fascinating. David came up with a powerful colorful sizzling composition. For me, personally, composition is the core of writing, nothing new under the sun and it all amounts to the way we edit and copy paste our numerous realities.

Parts I liked most were Michael's conversations with "her". I found those moments explorative, insightful and modest in their humbleness facing the great beyond. Another part was Mark's character which came through as very authentic and I could easily relate to him. Another thing was the ending - powerful, quiet, very private and human.

Things I had a difficulty with:
1. Personally I would have preferred less parallel plot lines for the sake of learning more and going deeper into the main ones.
2. Merav's character didn`t work for me. I found it hard to relate to her circumstances.
3. The adoption drama was a bit too melodramatic for my own taste.
4. I would have liked the emails part to be much more comprehensive, since for those relationships (Michael and Merav and Guy and Julia) there is nothing but the written verbal. (I would also expect a gmail relationship to naturally involve chat and voice, if not cam.)

I admire the author's emotional (st)ability to keep the novel's scope so inclusive as to allow the multiple universes to interact without bringing the whole house down. Cheers for the sheer braveness and boldness of it all.

David Fontyn (October 8, 2011)

I read the book on my PDA. I found myself firing up the FBReader at every possible moment (any "Idle" time).

It's a "thinking man's" book. You find yourself going back and forth in your mind to connect all characters and plots going on.

You find yourself trying to guess why/what/who and sometimes succeed :) alas not always :).

This book interweaves the novel with the modern Online world. It leaves you thinking and trying to guess who was the puppeteer and what happened.

I am waiting for the next book by David Lloyd.

Naomi Epstein (October 8, 2011)

Visualising Ideas - Saturday’s Book: “As I Died Laughing” by David Lloyd

As a rule, I don’t care what format a book is in- I’m interested in the content.

However, since I don’t own an electronic reader I have ignored E-books till now. It isn’t comfortable to read them on Adobe Reader. Particulary as I spend enough time working on the computer, I would rather read for pleasure away from the computer.

So why am I reading this one?

My original motivation was simply that it is written by David Lloyd. David gave the Israeli English teachers in Israel an online email support/discussion group in the early 1990s, I believe, long before there was social media and online personal learning networks. This group, ETNI, was and remains very important to me. David blogs at Why I may still be Canadian

My motivation now is that the characters are intriguing, I have no idea what will happen next and I’m curious to find out!

It it wasn’t an E-book I would have finished it by now! However, as I read something else in bed before going to sleep, it will take me a bit longer…

Karen Budd (September 27, 2011)

As this is a book in electronic format, I'll divide my review into electronic and content reviews - as a voracious reader of books in this format, both are important considerations, and I'm aware that the author is not always responsible for the format. I’m honestly not very good at reviewing but will do my best and feel free to ask anything!

TECH REVIEW – Very accessible, hosted on a user-friendly website with a simple download procedure. The option to download a sample of the book at no charge is available, which I took to quickly check formatting and style before I bought the book.

It worked brilliantly on my Kindle and formatting and editing were excellent, much better than many works available.

CONTENT REVIEW – David’s narrative is deceptively simple. He engages you with a chatty and comfortable style of writing before exploding some of the bombs of his ideas over your head. The reader is free to be swept along with the story without getting weighed down in ponderous descriptions. The character development is thorough, and the author allows them to be themselves, with their own motivations and actions, without telling the reader how we should be reacting to them.

I don’t think I need to review the story, as the plot synopsis is enough there, but it’s not just a simple tale of one relationship. Along the way we encounter all sorts of relationships – ‘real-life’ friendships and love, and online interactions, both between ‘real’ identities and identity constructs.

David’s book challenges the safe idea that ‘real relationships are good and online relationships are bad’ that we are fed by the media – but, true to reality, you’re left feeling that there are pitfalls to be negotiated in both.

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