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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu

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To purchase 2023

Title: 2023
Author: The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu
Genre: Novel
Written: 2017
Length: 376 pages
Availability: 2023 - US
2023 - UK
2023 - Canada
2023 - España
  • A Trilogy
  • "The current representatives of The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu are Jimmy Cauty and Bill Drummond"

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Our Assessment:

B : enjoyable mix of the familiar and some wild ideas, but ultimately a bit lightweight

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Guardian . 7/9/2017 Jake Arnott

  From the Reviews:
  • "(T)here certainly is much creative reading needed to get through this book. (...) Part of the problem here is that there is too much borrowing and simply not enough stealing. The KLF’s boldness in making other people’s riffs their own in music is utterly lacking in their prose style." - Jake Arnott, The Guardian

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:

       2023 is ascribed to 'The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu', whose "current representatives [...] are Jimmy Cauty and Bill Drummond", the familiar faces/voices behind one-time hit-makers The Timelords and the music/performance-art/money-burning group the KLF. From their chosen name -- close to (but: "not to be confused with") 'the Justified and Ancient of Mummu' -- to the novel's trilogy-format to the name of narrator-author who is ostensibly writing the novel (in 1984, under the pen name 'George Orwell'), Roberta Antonia Wilson, they and the novel owe an obvious debt to Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea's The Illuminatus! Trilogy, with much of the content also borrowing and riffing on Illuminati!-lore, such as the significance of the number 23.
       Known for their musical sampling, the authors also borrow extensively in this novel -- stand-in author Roberta noting;

I expect the reader's palette is reasonably broad, so they will notice I have borrowed from two monuments of twentieth-century literature. I do not feel the need to defend this on artistic grounds. I just hope that if this book is ever published, the holders of the copyright in both of these previous works of great literature will only feel honoured I have chosen to embrace them in my work of fiction.
       Beyond the literary borrowings, 2023 also features many real-life characters (and some from fiction), and some fictionalized (and often sex-changed -- Roberta Antonia Wilson and Winnie Smith (as in the Winston Smith of 1984)) alternates. Both the real-life Yoko Ono and a younger counterpart going by the same name figure prominently, as do the actual authors, Jimmy Cauty and Bill Drummond (in more bumbling roles). Alan Moore, Angela Merkel, Vladimir Putin, and Damien Hirst are among those figuring in their more or less real roles -- projected to 2023 -- while alternate histories and names for some famous personalities and corporations suggest how the near-future has evolved. So, for example, the five dominant companies ("who have now solved all the world's problems") in a world where the nation-state no longer exists are even bigger versions of familiar present-day juggernauts, now called GoogleByte, WikiTubes, AmaZaba, FaceLife, and AppleTree -- though Starbucks is also still going strong by its old name. Meanwhile, the Turner Prize has been renamed, too -- it's now the Hockney Award (and also plays a role in the story).
       The plot includes Winnie Smith having completed a singularity-like GoogleByte upgrade, where: "people around the world can plug in to have their brains connected and death will be over"; all she has to do is hit 'Send to upload it -- but she hesitates ..... Vladmir Putin is happily retired -- but also has a hidden army lying in wait for the right day ..... And there's FUUK-UP, the "First Universal Uber Kinetic-Ultramicro Programmer" -- "where it all started" -- the Internet, that is ("FUUK-Up became Google, for obvious marketing reasons") -- and, now, the possibility of bringing it all down (as -- *spoiler* -- happens, the internet collapses and shuts down, with even the i23 phones not working any more).
       Central to much of what happens is a new version of Yoko Ono's iconic Grapefruit, the one-hundred-instruction manual, Grapefruit Are Not the Only Bombs, published only in a very limited edition (of twenty-three), and distributed only to a very select group (on whom it tends to make a big impression).
       Rather crowded with ideas (and characters), 2023 does offer a quite fun limited vision of this new world, and there are certainly clever bits to it -- not least the nicely expressed (if not entirely convincing):
     Like so many other trades before it, being a Revolutionary, along with being a milkman, had become redundant. Pints on the doorstep and manning the barricades were things now only found on the History Channel.
       2023 offers conspiracy, commentary on modern commerce and technology and the role of art in contemporary society. It's not quite a thriller, but is reasonably exciting; the use of real and real-fictional characters (and variations on them) of course helps add to the intrigue, an easy shorthand that obviates the need for more character-building. As in music-sampling, the echoes of the familiar also make for recognition-enjoyment -- the satisfaction of being in on the joke -- but, while familiarity with Drummond and Cauty's previous work and Illuminati!-lore (and much else) certainly enhance the pleasures of the text, it's approachable and basic enough, with the meanings to many of the references sufficiently explained, that readers who aren't in the know won't be too flummoxed or put off.
       It is still kind of a mixed bag -- for one, because so much is stuffed into it. There's quite a bit of structure to it, but with so many pieces it all feels, or at least reads, a bit frail. And while sampling is all well and good, there has to be more to it, and while the authors certainly gamely go at it, the whole is a bit ... baggy. There's enough action and variety to entertain all along, but not quite enough more to it; it's certainly an amusing and quite entertaining read, but not enough of all that meat really winds up clinging to the end-product.
       Good fun -- especially for the fans -- but not too much more.

- M.A.Orthofer, 17 February 2018

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2023: Reviews: KLF (The Timelords): Other books by and about Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty under review Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Contemporary British fiction

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About the Authors:

       "The current representatives of The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu are Jimmy Cauty and Bill Drummond" -- the minds and voices also behind The KLF and The Timelords. As The Timelords they had a number one hit with Doctorin' the Tardis. As The KLF and The JAMs they have been sued by ABBA, tried to recruit Whitney Houston to sing with them, and convinced Tammy Wynette to do so (on the brilliant "Justified and Ancient"). As trustees of the K Foundation they have burned a million quid.

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© 2018-2021 the complete review

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