Moon Beaver, by Andrew Hook

Reviewed by Nels Stanley This is the new novel from Elastic Press impresario and British small press mainstay Andrew Hook, a man who puts the 'What the f**k was that?' into 'non sequitur'.

As anyone who’s encountered Andrew Hook’s short fiction knows, his shortcomings as a writer (an occasional clumsiness of prose, the feeling that he likes and identifies with his central characters far more than anyone else possibly could) are normally rendered moot, because by the time it takes to snort derisively at him one is swept under by his constant barrages of ad-hoc wordplay, bizarre imagery, dime-a-dozen punnery and the weird shenanigans that permeate his work.

The plot concerns the titular Ms Beaver, a ‘super-real’ individual who explodes into the humdrum existence of a workaday dweeb named Benny, forcing him to re-evaluate his relationship with his fiance Louise, his job with the dour and homogenous Company, his life in Norwich and his concepts of self and personal identity. Moon convinces him to set off on a road-trip to (amongst other places) Bournemouth, Moscow and Bangkok. Weird characters abound in the subplots, such as the US chicken farmer Lou, Benny’s ex-girlfriend Louise and a pair of amateur pornographers, all of whom seem desperate to retain their individuality or are at least constantly plagued by their own questioning of it.

Not liking this book is a bit like trying to pin the tail on the donkey after you have snorted your own bodyweight in mescaline: you can see the donkey, you have a burning urge to do it, but it always turns out to be somewhere else by the time it comes to ram the pin home. The overall effect is like a somewhat less-lysergic Robert Rankin, with that literary deviant’s affection for Brentford replaced with Hook’s own for his home town of Norwich; echoes of Kingsley Amis also abound in the book’s construction and Hook’s somewhat mannered style. After finishing it one is left with the impression of a sweet summer confection that aspires to deeper things, which (at least for this reviewer) remain sadly out of its grasp.

Published By ENC Press (£9.50).