Notes from a Coma by Mike McCormack’s

The Irish government conducts a strange penal experiment knows as the "Somnos Project". Four convicted criminals are placed in a coma for three months. But all experiment requires a control, [an additional experiment which has no connection to the others] and JJ O’Malley an innocent man, volunteers to be the “control”. Why… in his own words, “to take my mind off my mind for a while”.

The novel is composed of short narratives from JJ’s adopted father, his girlfriend, friends and neighbors. They all describe JJ as a brilliant and gentle person who suffers from bouts of depression and existential guilt.

Spoiler alert – the accounts of JJ’s life are interrupted by footnote cluttered with academic gobbledygook, some are quite lengthy and take up half a page. It was like reading two different authors, embroiled in the same book – quite distracting.  

The book without the footnotes was appealing, though you only know JJ through the narratives; I would have like the author to include an interview with JJ.   

Three thumbs up.



  1. I loved the footnotes! Yes, they could be distracting and I needed a book mark to keep my place in the main narrative - the footnotes sometimes went on for pages at a time - but they were fascinating. I thought they were JJs thoughts, the random stream of consciousness from his unconscious mind that still wouldn't stop working. JJ wants to get away from his mind because it never stops. To me the disjointed footnotes were those of a comatose genius who's mind worked in hyperdrive.

  2. Connecting the footnotes to the unconscious mind of JJ; it is an interest concept and one I hadn't thought of. Perhaps JJ is having a conversation with himself, he did ponder his own existence and the “what if’s” of life. Thinking back… I would agree it does explain the randomness of the footnotes.