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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Steve Aylett

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To purchase Toxicology

Title: Toxicology
Author: Steve Aylett
Genre: Stories
Written: 1999
Length: 140 pages
Availability: Toxicology - US
Toxicology - UK
Toxicology - Canada

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Our Assessment:

B : fun and varied collection of stories

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The NY Times Book Rev. C 26/12/1999 Daniel Reitz
Rev. of Contemp. Fiction B- Summer/2000 Philip Landon

  From the Reviews:
  • "Preening cleverness is the foremost flaw of Toxicology (...) (T)he banality of these stories defeats any points he is trying to make." - Daniel Reitz, The New York Times Book Review

  • "A strong imagination is at work here which constantly goads itself to and beyond the limit. (...) Aylett operates by savaging conventions (...), but there is an air of precociousness about the radical poses struck. The gusto that Aylett pours into his fantasies is not matched by his technique and style: rich in their exuberantly overwritten texture, these fictions lack purpose, structure, and rhythm." - Philip Landon, Review of Contemporary Fiction

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:

       Steve Aylett's collection of twenty stories (twelve of which have been previously published) covers both the familiar territory of Beerlight -- Aylett's dystopian setting from previous works such as The Crime Studio and Slaughtermatic -- as well as offering other, new inventions. All fairly short (only three longer than ten pages), Aylett still manages to pack a mighty literary punch in these stories. His chiselled sentences are a pleasure, as always. Wittily turning on themselves, or slightly skewing familiar phrases, they are generally worth reading twice. Aylett is very clever in his writing, and rarely does he overdo it. Will Self is the only other English writer of both such sharp precision and wild imagination.
       Aylett tries his hand beyond what he has shown in his previous works, including a simple (and not completely successful) Bestiary -- an alphabetical list of "animals" -- and a strong piece imagining If Armstrong was Interesting (the Armstrong in question being moonwalking Neil, and Aylett's suggestions being a most amusing riff on space-idolization). The opening piece, Gigantic, offers civilization back the victims of its crimes in a well-executed story. The Beerlight tales are similar to what Aylett has done before -- though, by and large, no less fun for that.
       Aylett's science-fictive imagination is also one of the best around, though he quickly takes his ideas to their absurd extremes and doesn't bother trying for a sustained exploration of his wild notions. Still, the results are generally satisfying, as, for example, in stories such as Resenter with its rich imagery.
       Disappointments tend to be in the details -- a sentence that doesn't quite come off, a phrase out of place. Worst of all are the few instances of simple carelessness: for example, the joke when a gun is pulled and described as a "41-clip Guiliani." A fine idea, a good barb at the expense of the New York mayor (who defends his police force who shot 41 rounds into an unarmed man in a recent high profile case). Problem is, the mayor's name is misspelt. Similarly, the New York baseball team the Yankees is described as an (American-style) football team
       Nevertheless, it is a good little collection. Aylett does interesting things with language, and he has a wild imagination. These are still small pieces in which he seems to be showing off what he can do -- worthwhile because he does it well. It will be interesting to see whether he can focus his efforts on a larger, more cohesive piece.
       The variety in this volume makes it perhaps the best introduction to his work. And Aylett is definitely a writer worth knowing.

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Toxicology: 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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© 1999-2010 the complete review

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