The Making of Incarnation by Tom McCarthy review – all work and no play
Time-and-motion studies meets motion-capture acrobatics in a hi-tech saga that’s big on detail but devoid of insight
After consecutive Booker shortlistings, Tom McCarthy’s reputation as a boundary-pushing novelist seems set. But, perhaps more than anything he’s written, this latest work tempts the question: what exactly does a novel have to offer the reader in order to be classified as such?
Structurally, it’s hard to quibble: The Making of Incarnation is multi-stranded in a tradition that goes back to Dickens. Monica Dean, a young lawyer, is at the LSE, researching the early history of time-and-motion studies – an anonymous client is interested in whether movements can be copyrighted. Mark Phocan is also at work: Pantarey is a motion-capture specialist company on the outskirts of Oxford, today enticing a couple to perform enthusiastic sex while plastered in digital markers. And Ben Briar has a new job as scientific adviser on the sci-fi blockbuster Incarnation.