The hit, By Melvin Burgess
Goodbye, tomorrow's cruel world
Saturday 20 April 2013
Only future social historians will be able to make sense of the on-going fashion for teenage dystopian novels. Will these books turn out to be harbingers of some dreadful reality to come? Or do they cater for the type of adolescent self-dramatisation that arises when young readers muse about possible nightmare futures that few genuinely believe will happen, at least in their life-time? Whatever, Melvin Burgess, "the godfather of teen fiction", has now come up with his own version in The Hit, and pretty nasty it is too.
Adam, one of the thoroughly dislikeable young characters in this story, hates how his life in Manchester is going and duly swallows a Death Pill – an easily accessible drug which, in return for one ecstatic week, leads to instant oblivion. With nothing to lose, other teenagers who have taken it join in the nightly riots taking place in a future Britain which is in its 20th year of recession.
But Adam has fallen for Lizzie, a more upbeat 17-year-old with no intention of dying. She tries to make Adam's last week a good one, but complications ensue and the pair get caught between a terrifying criminal gang and a shadowy revolutionary group, the Zealots. Violence comes increasingly into play, sometimes in sickening detail.
Burgess's best novel, Junk, dealt unflinchingly with current urban realities linked to the drug scene. This one slips into paranoid fantasy. As always, he writes well, but without the lighter touches of old and with little feeling for his main characters. Occasional shafts of light, such as Adam's joyous induction into sex, are soon extinguished by so much time spent in the company of murderous psychopaths. Increasingly, the tension resides in whether Adam and Lizzie can escape once again from their various abductors. What exactly they are escaping to and whether it will be significantly better than anything that went before is not spelled out, bar a few brave phrases in the last pages.
In an afterword, Burgess writes that the main idea for this story was put to him by Barry Cunningham, his charismatic publisher. It makes admittedly for compelling reading, but perhaps next time he could return to the personal resources that have stood him so well in the past.
Chicken House £7.99
Watch the new House of Cards series three trailerTV
Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards
Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears
Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants
Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards
TV ReviewThe intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron
Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 The black and blue dress: Makers considering a white and gold version
- 2 Man to be beheaded in Saudi Arabia after ripping up a Koran and hitting it with his shoe
- 3 Husband and wife die holding hands within hours of each other after 67 years of marriage
- 4 PornHub turns masturbation into energy in bid to save the planet
- 5 The remarkable archaeological underwater discovery that could open up a new chapter in the study of European and British prehistory
Skrillex and Diplo's 24-hour DJ set shut down by police after 18 hours
Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl: First look at Oscar winner as transgender artist
Drake matches The Beatles' record with 14 singles in top 100 chart at the same time
Aidan Turner interview: 'being a sex symbol is a little awkward'
Oscars 2015: Get a sneak peek inside this year's outrageous $125,000 goodie bags
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
'Cash for access' scandal: Sir Malcolm Rifkind says 'unrealistic' for MPs to live on £67,000 salary
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
Russia's roadmap for annexing eastern Ukraine 'leaked from Vladimir Putin's office'