Monday, January 14, 2008

The Book of Dave by Will Self

Self has written a strange, often funny post-apocalyptic novel with a unique conceit. 

Dave Rudman is a London cabbie. Divorced from his wife, refused permission to see his young son, he writes his thoughts down and, in an act of quiet insolence, buries them in his wife's backyard.

500 years later, England is an isolated archipelago, and the only text the villagers of Ham have to guide their lives is the Book of Dave. It's their bible, their Koran, their Pentateuch, and their guide to daily life.

But Dave wasn't a happy guy when he wrote his epistles, and the parts of the book that show how this civilization blunders about trying to follow his precepts are terrifically clever. They use his "London cabbie speak" to name the elements of their world. The sun is the headlamp, the sky is the dashboard, etc. It's fun to figure out some of the nomenclature, and troubling to see how they deal with the only animal they have for food--a cross between a cow, a pig and a 2 year old child. Odd? Oh, yes!

I didn't enjoy the parts of the book which dealt with Dave and his family. He's a very bitter guy, and he's made a wreck of his life. But for fans of quirky futuristic fiction, and people who like to see a writer use his creative juices on something fairly different--this one is worth a read.