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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Steve Aylett

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To purchase Atom

Title: Atom
Author: Steve Aylett
Genre: Novel
Written: 2000
Length: 137 pages
Availability: Atom - US
Atom - UK
Atom - Canada

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Our Assessment:

B : more funky fun in Beerlight

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Guardian A 11/11/2000 Phil Daoust
The Scotsman . 29/12/2002 Carson Howat
The Washington Post A- 7/11/2000 Jabari Asim

  From the Reviews:
  • "Atom is a jaw-droppingly dark and funny work. (...) The plot, though, matters far less than Aylett's merciless, hardnosed wit. Characters spark off one another like flints in a spin drier. Out spew images as shiny and as perfect as new-minted coins." - Phil Daoust, The Guardian

  • "The story, as it is, is pure pulp gone Dada (...) (W)ith Aylett’s cinematic eye and punchline narration, the crazy road to a wacked-out conclusion is well worth riding along on." - Carson Howat, The Scotsman

  • "In this brisk whirlwind of a novel -- think crime-noir plus science fiction plus Technicolor cartoons -- Aylett hurls puns, allusions and sarcastic asides with postmodern panache. His story isn't particularly weighty and some of his characters are drawn a tad too quickly, but Aylett is clearly enjoying himself too much to let such considerations give him pause. (...) He is warped and perversely funny when he's at the top of his game." - Jabari Asim, The Washington Post

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       In Atom Steve Aylett returns to his favoured haunting and stomping ground, Beerlight, the dystopian setting familiar from The Crime Studio (see our review) and other works. "This is Beerlight", one of the characters reminds another, "situationism's just a front." It's a wild town, and most there aren't too concerned with the legalities or the technicalities. Beerlight is a place where the characters have weapons that can send them back in time to avoid (or repeat) their crimes -- and that is just the tame stuff.
       The focus this time 'round is on Atom -- Taffy Atom, a "pri - vate ... defective" as one character misreads his calling card. Atom is a P.I., and his assistant, of sorts, is an impressive and aggressive fish.
       The always colourful cast of characters also includes Eddie Thermidor, Nada Neck, and Harry Fiasco, among others. There's even a cameo by Franz Kafka himself (who is most definitely not happy to wind up in this place -- "It is not what I imagined ! Where are the singing voices ? The unity ?").
       It's Beerlight. Thermidor's gang's custom-built fort is:

Industrial gothic (...) tempered by Bren Shui, the art of exchanging negative energy with the environment through the correct placement of firearms around the home.
       The plot is surreal-noir, with all the elements (and confusion) from the traditional PI genre warped to Beerlight's very different standards. Most of the fun is in the writing and the asides. Aylett's language is near as sharp as usual, twisting and bending the conventional out of all recognition, making for an entertaining (and occasionally baffling) read. From a manufacturer's defence of the new Dead Barbie doll ("The new Barbie has a casket, cadaver makeup, bugs. Alive she's not.") to the workings of the Syndication bomb (the newest in flux technology) Aylett comes up with fresh and cutting commentary, satire sometimes so dry it cracks.
       Coherence is not first and foremost on Aylett's mind (and might, in fact, not be possible in Beerlight), but Atom is a fairly entertaining read, a sustained, meandering story of sorts with enough sharp writing to jolt one's attention.
'America has the hallucinations it deserves,' Atom said, blue sky in place of his evaporated head.
       And Aylett's hallucinations are certainly well-deserved, on both sides of the Atlantic.

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Atom: Reviews: Steve Aylett: Other books by Steve Aylett under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       British author Steve Aylett was born in 1967. He has written several novels.

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