Homer's Travels: Book: Will Self's "The Book of Dave"

Friday, August 21, 2009

Book: Will Self's "The Book of Dave"

Will Self's "The Book of Dave" is a fascinating book with tons of potential. It's also a book that doesn't quite deliver on its promise while coming very close.

Two alternating stories intertwine throughout "The Book of Dave". One story takes place in the present and follows Dave Rudman, a London cabby. Dave, suffering through a contentious and sometimes violent divorce, fearing his son will grow up without the benefit of his knowledge, writes a book filled with all his cab driver knowledge as well as his mental illness induced distorted view of marriage, sexism, racism, and the world in general. Since a restraining order prohibits him from giving the book to his son, he sneaks in the dead of night and buries the book in his ex-wife's garden.

The other story takes place in some undisclosed future. A future 500 years after the rediscovery of Dave's book of rants. The book has become the post-apocalyptic Ing's (England's) religious book and the basis of Ing's society. Men and women are kept apart. Children are passed back and forth between the mummies and the daddies. Society is based on institutionalized divorce. All aspects of life are referred to in cab drivers terms. Priests are known as Drivers. Time is divided into tariffs. Believers in Dave are fares.

I liked seeing how Dave's twisted view of the world had manifested itself in the future society. I often read something in a future chapter and wondered where that came from just to have the light come on when I read the next Dave chapter. The sense of discovery made this book hold my interest.

This sense of discovery is often thwarted by the struggle to understand the dialog. A lot of the dialog is in Cockney or worse a bastardized future version of Cockney. Frankly, it's hard to read at times. You almost have to read parts out loud to understand them. The saving grace was, the more I read, the easier it was to understand but it was a little disconcerting in the beginning.

In the end, Dave's modern day story was more interesting than the future society story. This was unexpected. I usually like futuristic scenarios but the storyline failed to hold up its end of the deal. The future story has little jeopardy and seemed a little dull at times. This is disappointing as it could have been so much more. The narrative ended in an odd and rather understated way. In inconclusive conclusion.

Despite the short comings and the difficult dialog, I would somewhat recommended the book. The innovative ideas make the slog worth the effort.

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