Vintage, £8.99 Order for £8.50 (free p&p) from the Independent Bookshop: 0870 079 8897
Wildlife, By Joe Stretch
Caught in the network
Tuesday 28 April 2009
"It's amazing what we can do with computers nowadays" is a mantra that cuts through Joe Stretch's second novel like a short circuit in a motherboard, endlessly sending the same signal. It's heartening to discover that the contemporary novel can still do amazing things, too. In his debut, Friction (2008), Stretch quickly announced himself as the sexy chronicler of the grotesque, yet in this second novel he takes a step back from the shock tactics of an eager debutant and delivers a serious meditation on technology and individualism. It is Ballardian in scope, and equally as exciting as his brutal debut.
Set in a world where "TV is dead", Wildlife follows four dispirited and lonely individuals looking for a way out of their boring "real" lives. Art school drop-out Anka is now a presenter for late-night "Quiz TV" on "Channel Manc". Janek, a session musician, has been "waiting his whole life for something to matter". Roger, a blogger, is literally metamorphosing into technology and Joe, morbidly fascinated with his ex-girlfriend's excrement, will do just about anything to get her back.
The online temptations of the -social network "Wild World" hang over this group like a blue sky of possibility. This new technology, a feeder of vainglorious egos, pulls these characters together. Wildlife explores the determined fervour and crippling pointlessness of their yearning for individualism. The idea that a true individual can never find peace with the self is given added gravitas when their worlds come crashing down around them. Except that, online, there is no one to pick up the pieces.
Wildlife succeeds in its assured surveillance of the myriad possibilities available, much more interesting than the the characters' own lives, on a burgeoning technology. This dark and twisted exploration of ego reveals life as we would like it to be, uploaded for our pleasure. The novels of Joe Stretch, like Ballard's before him, transmit back to us our continuing inability to grasp hold of modernity.
Arts & Ents blogs
Never before seen personal accounts of Great War offer vivid picture of life at the Front
Neil Patrick Harris talks shooting 'robotic' Gone Girl sex scene with Rosamund Pike
Boy George: Bad karma
PonoMusic: Neil Young reaches Kickstarter target to fund new music player within a day
Disney's Frozen is 'very evil' gay propaganda, says Christian pastor
Katie Hopkins continues campaign to become Britain's most hated talking head with poorly timed Bob Crow tweet
No EU referendum under Labour: Ed Miliband to reveal that vote on membership is ‘unlikely’ in next Parliament if party wins power
Grace Dent: Who cares if she spells it Barraco Barner? Gemma Worrall is more employable than some bookish arts graduate
Fracking is turning the US into a bigger oil producer than Saudi Arabia
Europeans have ‘got whiter’ due to natural selection in past 5,000 years, scientists say
How climate change helped Genghis Khan: Scientists believe a sudden period of warmer weather allowed the Mongols to invade with such success
- 1 Hells of residence: Inside Macedonia's horrifying student accommodation - where the walls are green and the food is black
- 2 Arrest made after man is found by the side of the road with his penis cut off
- 3 Michael Schumacher 'experience' gives F1 legend chance to 'show his character', says Lewis Hamilton
- 4 Girl found in the Amazon rainforest with neighbour Grover Morales after going missing for 7 months
- 5 Disney's Frozen is 'very evil' gay propaganda, says Christian pastor