LITTLE, BROWN, £12.99. ORDER FOR £11.69 (FREE P&P) ON 0870 079 8897
Lost Boys, by James Miller
When children go missing, personal tragedy turns into a political quest
Wednesday 02 July 2008
The disappearance of a child is the worst nightmare for any parent, prompting the direst forebodings. James Miller draws upon these fears for his debut novel, to create an allegory for the terminal state of Western civilisation as a whole. The narrative starts with the release from captivity of Arthur Dashwood, an oil executive kidnapped by insurgents in Iraq. His reprieve from execution is mysterious, but appears to mean he can resume his family life and career back in London.
Dashwood's relief is short-lived. Timothy, his 13-year-old son, is plagued by dreams in which a charismatic oriental boy is encouraging him to leave home and join him on an important quest. These visitations are persuasive and Timothy's attempts to alert his father fail. Other pupils at his exclusive private school are experiencing the dreams, and soon boys are vanishing. No one knows where they are going, but there are clues that they are setting off to join the dispossessed of the world in their struggle against the tyranny of the superpowers.
Miller has taken inspiration from diverse strands of fiction and legend. There are borrowings from Peter Pan, and references to the medieval Muslim cult of the Hashshashin, which is said to have trained up youths into assassins. However, his main influences are more contemporary, with large sections of Lost Boys resembling J G Ballard's writings in both subject and style.
The novel follows the concept behind much of Ballard's fiction: that social or environmental triggers can unlock dormant psychological drives, giving rise to widespread upheaval. The alienation and anomie of Miller's characters are recognisably Ballardian, and his debt extends to the detached narration and economic prose. Lost Boys also evokes William Burroughs, particularly in the boys' quest for utopian liberation from a world of bloody oppression.
Miller makes good use of these avant-garde predecessors. His dream-like fable works well and he delivers a strikingly imaginative and tightly written story with wider resonances. Its bold appropriation of global politics places it within the everyday debate which questions the extent to which the desire to control resources and maintain hegemony drives foreign policy in the northern hemisphere. Away from the politics, it will be interesting to see whether Miller can leave his literary mentors behind and develop a stronger voice of his own for the future.
Is the comedy album making a comeback?comedy
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Woman and two children killed by mob in riots over 'blasphemous' Facebook post in Pakistan
- 2 The secret report that helps Israelis to hide facts
- 3 Danish TV reporter is all business up top, all party down below
- 4 Ross Burden dead: MasterChef and Ready Steady Cook star, dies aged 45
- 5 Businessman charged £75 for three small bottles of water in London hotel
Secret Cinema: Why were Back to the Future screenings cancelled?
Top Gear Burma episode breached Ofcom rules over Jeremy Clarkson's racial slur
Game of Thrones season 4 blooper reel unveiled at Comic-Con 2014
Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 teaser trailer sees Katniss lead rebellion against the Capitol
The Simpsons Family Guy trailer: First look at crossover episode after Comic-Con debut
The secret report that helps Israelis to hide facts
A day in the life of Vladimir Putin: The dictator in his labyrinth
Were 'Poor Doors' added to mixed developments so wealthy residents don't have to go in alongside social housing tenants?
A new Russian revolution: The cracks are starting to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Arizona execution lasts two hours as killer Joseph Wood left 'snorting and gasping' for air
Opponents of Israel's military operation in Gaza are the real enemies of Middle Eastern peace