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Summary

Funny, smart, damaged, Tom is lost in the machinery of the British mental health system, talking to a voice no one else can hear; the voice of Malamock, the Octopus God—sometimes loving, sometimes cruel, but always there to fill his life with meaning. Once an outstanding law student, Tom is now cared for by his long-suffering sister Tess, who encourages him into an experimental drugs trial that promises to silence the voice forever. The Octopus God, however, does not take kindly to being threatened...

Deeply moving and tragi-comic, The Octopus Man is a bravura literary performance that asks fundamental questions about belief and love. 

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2021 Jasper Gibson (P)2021 Orion Publishing Group

Critic reviews

"An exceptional work...A brilliant and necessary book." (Douglas Stuart, author of the Booker Prize-winning Shuggie Bain)

"Funny. Disturbing. Brilliant." (Lily Allen)

"A joy to read." (Johnny Flynn)

What listeners say about The Octopus Man

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Madness - the sanest form of existence for some?

Doris Lessing's The Four Gated City and her Briefing for a Descent into Hell, Ken Kesey's One Fell Over the Cuckoo's Nest, R D Laing's discussions of schizophrenia as a family-based issue, Oliver Sacks' investigations of assorted neurological issues - just some works in English which provide insightful investigations of "mental illness" using fiction/non-fiction.

But for me Jasper Gibson is the first writer to have cracked that divide between Us and Them.

Written from the point of view of Thomas who experiences life under the thrall of a very jealous god (Mamalock) this is a very rough journey indeed with the imposition of intensely disturbing stresses, occasionally abated under the clumsy attentions of the mental health service.

There are wonderful chapters devoted to, for instance, logical debate between Tom (patient) and Fredericks (doctor) which give clear insight into the one-way power structure of mental institutions or, another instance, to descriptions of how a panic attack can build on a journey (coffee, low power on mobile etc).

The style is ecstatic, intense, eidetic and memorable; the events funny, heart-breaking, amazing and horrifying. The immersion in character, place and landscape is extraordinary and the plot interestingly structured with clues and obscurities placed throughout to stop us ever determining what is going to happen, let alone what should happen. Lots of rabbit holes for us to fall down, such as Tom and Tess' mother or the spoons.

The critique of the mental health services and hospitals is not flattering but probably accurate. And how can people like Tom survive decently on the money provided?

Tom is a beautiful character, extremely intelligent, observant, a deep lover of nature, funny and kind and he has been a great consumer of mind-altering substances. Perhaps his extraordinary characteristics have rendered him more vulnerable. The other characters are equally well-drawn - Tess the sister, Missy the fellow patient, Phoebe the ex-girlfriend, every person it seems in the hospital, Crowborough and beyond.

I was enthralled by Johnny Flynn's reading: he delivered every note with a musician's ear and every character with an actor's precision. When it was over I just wanted it to begin again.

I'll be telling everyone about this book and about this reading.

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Terrifically an amazing story, SO ORIGINAL

I read this after reading the depressing Shuggie Bain. which won the Booker prize.
But this book is so uplifting, telling the story of an outsider, whom everybody assumes is mentally ill, just because Tom has a different God, doesnt mean society should ignore him and treat him like a nutter.
This book should win a prize for its originally.

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A brilliant insight into life with psychosis

This was a joy (sometimes painful) it was an accurate depiction of life with psychosis. as someone who has been a patient I was totally absorbed. characters were fabulous and the narration was perfect. my husband and sometimes carer loved it too

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Brilliant brilliant book

Brilliant from start to finish - there’s no weak chapter. The humour bursts out at you in between the most poignant scenes. I actually laughed out loud involuntarily. You can really imagine these people - it all seemed so very real. The scenes at the clinic were fantastic especially the awful realisation of the abuses and the overall sense of what it must be like to hear voices/be a sufferer of schizophrenia was so well painted. I’m absolutely bowled over by this book I just want to listen all over again.
I’m a big Johnny Flynn fan anyway but his narration was spot on. His female voices were hilarious especially Meghan the social worker and Missy, Tom’s new best friend. Really loved it....

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Strong, funny dialogue; a snapshot of modern Britain

Gibson captures south east England. The panoply of modern Britain is here. The dialogue is strong. I wish the Octopus God himself spoke less in Poundian fragments - he seems more modern than old - the product of the electronic fragmentation of discourse to borrow a phrase about Franzen rather than an ancient, lengthier coherency. Still, I think that’s the point - a spiritual health crisis dressed as a mental one in Britain and the West.

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Loved it.

I loved this book, great writing, believable and very real characters and situations. Beautifully portrayed. Some lovely laugh out load moments too which bring bring you back down to earth just when you need it. Beautifully narrated too.

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Sensitive and compassionate

Written with some insiders knowledge. Superb. Made me want to hug Tom and Tess. And the author too. X

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Rollercoaster ride snapshot of schizophrenia

An entertaining yet thought provoking insight to the struggles of living with schizophrenia from the diagnosed individual's perspective to the far reaching impact on family, friends, local community and care providers.
Johnny Flynn brought every character to life through his narration and made me laugh and cry in equal measure.
I tend to save Audible books for my commute and I know it's a good book when I'm hoping for traffic congestion to extend my journey time and give me more time to listen. The Octopus Man made me leave late many days so I could guarantee long queues and more me time. Thank you Jasper and Johnny.

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Extremely unusual book

When I started listening to this I thought I wouldn’t get past the first chapter but it is compelling and incredibly sensitive. Very well written.

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  • Ira
  • 06-04-21

absolutely amazing ♡

the story is exciting, sad and genuinely funny at the same time
performance and the voice of Johnny Flynn are marvellous and make the story so alive and captivating