Martin Martin's On The Other Side, By Mark Wernham

This novelist has seen the future of Britain... and it's stupid

Anyone worried about the inexorable dumbing-down of British life, look away now. Mark Wernham has seen the future, and it's stupid. This debut novel's setting is left unclear: Britain is run as a sort of mindless idiocracy, a Comet shopfloor by day, a heaving city-centre Wetherspoon's by night.

The Prime Minister is a grinning fool who shows off his pecs on billboards, while workers are schooled from birth for life in an "agri-factory" or "the gov", where they earn not money but credits towards paying off their "Life Debt".

Drone happiness in this brave new world is maintained thanks to free-flowing recreational drugs and a branch of bar-cum-sex club Starfucks on every corner. Any men worried about the relentless rise of women in society might want to hang on in there. This moronic Britain is run by men, for men.

The moron at the centre of Wernham's novel is lowly Social Studies functionary Jensen Interceptor, a live-for-the-weekend boor of the first order. Jensen gets a surprising promotion to the Security Department when he stumbles on an illegal cell of Martin Martinists. They are cult followers of an old TV psychic (from the bad old days of ...today) whom they see as a messiah, destined to save the world from itself.

Jensen's narrative voice is a deliberately charmless amalgam of swearing, baby-talk and buzzwords. Girls have "chumblies", poor folk drink "red booze" and eat "bolly naze", Jensen's "spank pad" is "spot bollock". It's a deliberate echo of Alex in Anthony Burgess's A Clockwork Orange, and if it seems a poor relation in terms of linguistic inventiveness, maybe that's the point. Which doesn't make it any less of a chore to read.

What do we expect from such a future-dystopia? Whether it's Brazil or Nineteen Eighty-Four, the creation of a believable world is only half the point. There must be a reason for its creation, which is where we hope for some serious analysis. The problem with Martin Martin... is that, for all its plausibly repellent window-dressing, the motor of the plot is not political at all. It hangs on Martin Martin's paranormal abilities – time travel, precognition and spiritual possession. Throw in a surprisingly conventional epiphany for Jensen (the love of a good woman!) and you have a novel that's not half as cynical or radical as it would like to think.

Jonathan Cape, £11.99. Order for £10.99 (free p&p) on 0870 079 8897

Arts and Entertainment
Loading individual letters on to an original Heidelberg printing press
books
Arts and Entertainment
Shades of glory: Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend

Glastonbury Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend will perform with Paul Weller as their warm-up act

Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

    'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

    In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
    VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

    How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

    Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
    They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

    Typefaces still matter in the digital age

    A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
    Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

    'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

    New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
    The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

    Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

    Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
    Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

    Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

    Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
    Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

    Crisp sales are in decline

    As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
    Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

    Ronald McDonald the muse

    A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
    13 best picnic blankets

    13 best picnic blankets

    Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
    Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

    Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

    Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
    Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

    Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

    Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'