Title: The Great Cyprus Think Tank
Author: Larry Lockridge
Genre: Satire / Humor
Canadian Bart Beasley narrates this second book in Lockridge’s Enigma Quartet series, which capably functions as a standalone read.
It is primarily set in 2024 and follows a motley band of “experts” as they decamp to Cyprus in an attempt to solve the Island’s political, economic, social, and environmental issues.
Sixty-two-year-old Bart Beasley takes the reader straight into his brief history and reasons for wanting to “rescue” Cyprus. It’s a rapid, chatty opener. Beasley’s pithy humor is nuanced with jaded cynicism and soft sarcasm.
He makes little asides to the reader, almost stepping out of character to give the impression of a music hall comedian, as he offers the literary equivalent of a sardonically raised eyebrow and a conspiratorial wink to his audience.
Overall, however, the prose has a slick, accomplished feel. Beasley breezily imparts knowledge laced with whip-smart observations and twisted with impish humor. There is a deceptively well-researched amount of interesting, genuine details and a side-angle involving the island’s literary connection to Rimbaud, Shakespeare, and the Durrell Brothers.
In the second chapter, “The Flyover,” the majority of the Think Tank fly the length and breadth of Cyprus. The prose intensely appeals to visualization as Beasley gives a detailed, running commentary of the geography of the island interspersed with historical facts, many of which have been humorously expanded upon.
It’s a clever tactic, swiftly introducing the reader to the majority of the ensemble and Cyprus. Although first glance deems The Great Cyprus Think Tank to be a slightly frivolous satire, a lot of writerly care and ingenuity has been taken for it to appear so.
As expected, the crew of the Think Tank are an eccentric, esoteric bunch riddled with sexual tension, frustration, and jealousy. Lockridge has immense fun at their expense in the guise of Beasley, who is the master of descriptive exaggeration as he reports on the various absurdities and entanglements.
A few of the vignettes are an acquired comic taste as they veer into the downright bizarre. It could be leveled that the attempt at enacting Othello with the impersonators of Rimbaud, the Durrell brothers, and Shakespeare, was a touch abstruse.
Nonetheless, whilst amusing, the chapter involving the sea turtles has a distinctly allegorical feel. Lockridge is adept at producing what appears like a light-hearted fantastical farce, but the jokes, like the cast, operate on several levels and are representative of wider issues.
Indeed, the farcical capers are punctuated by serious passages of backstory which provide a sharp contrast to the levity. Gayle and Jasmine’s stories were undeniably poignant and highlighted by their factual, deadpan delivery.
Melusina Frei, the archeologist, was the strongest character in linear terms. The dynamic between Armide Asani, the Turkish-Cypriot Muslim, and Renaud Remis the Greek-Cypriot Christian could certainly be viewed as a sly metaphor for the divisive history of Cyprus.
Further, Beasley’s emotional unburdening as he directly addresses the reader in Chapter Fourteen is refreshing. The narrative marginally loses its jaunty edge as he describes his failed marriages and works well, although, by the end, the reader can be forgiven for wondering if he is being entirely reliable.
Elements of the book are gloriously silly in their completely ridiculous depth of conceited understatement. The unquestioning, infinite bankrolling from the Soros Foundation is one such example, as are parts of the Epilogue, albeit underpinned with that familiar tinge of considered pathos.
The Great Cyprus Think Tank is, on the surface, a riot of outlandish nonsense that journeys into truly fantastical territory. However, if a reader delves behind the relentless banter and whimsy, the novel rewards with savagely satirical and witty insight.
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