Friday, 5 June 2015

The Weightless World by Anthony Trevelyan

Reviewer: JJ Marsh

What we thought: Galley Beggar Press is fast becoming a hallmark of great literary taste. Their back catalogue shimmers with glorious finds such as Randall, A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing, The White Goddess and The Everlasting Lane. They’re all different, but none forgettable. This one is a stylish addition to the canon.

A literary, speculative, to-hell-with-pigeonholes piece of fiction, The Weightless World blends reality and a fantastical premise. This is the crux of the thing and what makes it work. It’s office politics. It’s Human Resources doublespeak. It’s powerlessness and loyalty and fear and a step into the unknown, accompanied by the known only too well.

Raymond Ess and his assistant Steven Strauss are in India to buy an anti-gravity machine. Strauss, our narrator, is sceptical such a thing exists, especially as Ess has recently suffered a breakdown. The whole trip seems built on a web of lies, wishful thinking and betrayal. Trevelyan plays with the who-knows-what and reliability of perception so that the reader feels as vulnerable and confused as the narrator himself.

The story is alternately frustrating and surprising, but never dull. In fact, I read it again immediately after finishing. Superlative skills of observation allow us full sensory immersion into the strangeness of Mumbai and the Indian countryside, the uneasy relationships built over a reckless road trip and the shifting sands discomfort when everything you believe is altered at the flick of a switch.

You’ll enjoy this if you liked
: The Beach by Alex Garland, The Bridge by Iain Banks, Snowdrops by AD Miller

Avoid if you dislike: uncertainty, slow unravelling, suspension of disbelief

Ideal accompaniments: Chutney sandwiches, mango juice, Bj√∂rk’s Human Behaviour and a lava lamp to stare at when you stop and think

Genre: Literary

Available from Amazon

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