This is a review of Love and Other Near Death Experiences, by Mil Millington, which I finished reading not that long ago. It's the comedic tale of a local radio jazz DJ who survives the total destruction of a pub by being late for an interview there, and his quest to find some kind of meaning in life in the wake of it, not to mention the ability to make the smallest of choices without spending hours working out which one is most likely to allow for his survival.
It's a clever concept, and one that potentially allows for a lot of thought about the nature and meaning of life. Indeed, we have several characters who have been through similar things, and who come in along a spectrum ranging from complete nihilism to cheery belief that their continued existence is ordained by God.
That's where the problems start a little. There's a sense here of the issues not being fully explored, which for something so high concept seems a little odd. Instead, there's a meandering kind of quest that doesn't really go anywhere. It's probably a brilliant metaphor for the meaning of life, but it's also a meandering quest that doesn't really go anywhere. The same is true of other parts that don't make a lot of sense, like the sudden addition of a would be serial killer, the speed of the 'romance' angle, and the way the ending ties things up. Oh, and the fairly blunt declaration of what the main character has learned.
That's would be fine if we could just sit back and revel in the elegance and brilliance of the prose. I mean, China Mieville doesn't always make sense. Here, it's kind of a mixed bag. There are some great moments and turns of language. There's also some real humour in places, mostly character based. The trouble for me is that in the quest for laughs Millington reduces everything to a lot of swearing and a lot of poor taste jokes about sex, mixed in with a few about bodily functions just to be on the safe side. I don't mind any of these things as far as they go, but there is more utterly gratuitous swearing in this book than in any other I have read, to the extent that it gets both dull and predictable.
So it's not really a light, fun read in that sense. And yet it's not really as deep as it could be either. It feels like something that's a decent enough read, but it could have been so much better.