""From now on,"" Ruby says to her friend, the narrator, ""We're going on the Stone Age diet. It means we only eat the sort of healthy things our ancestors would have eaten. Raw grains and fruits and stuff like that. That's what our bodies are made for."" An admirable plan, but Ruby never eats, and the narrator's attention span doesn't lend itself to routine. He's too busy pining for his ex-girlfriend Cis, who broke up with him and left him with self-pity and a plant: an Aphrodite Cactus that, when it flowers, is supposed to seal the love of the giver to the receiver, according to Ruby. Ruby, who never wears any shoes (even in the dead of winter). Though lovelorn and lonely, the narrator's life is rich with myth, demons, werewolves, gods and goddesses; everything is imbued with a spirit. There's Helena, goddess of electric guitar players; Ascanazl, an ancient and powerful Inca spirit who looks after lonely people; Shumash the sun god; the war and sexuality goddess Astarte; the muse Clio. In fact the only thing stronger and more sustaining than the narrator's fantasy life is his friendship with Ruby-the kind of friendship a body is made for.
In this charming but aimless tale, the everyday harshness of drugs, heartbreak, and poverty in London's gritty south side mingles casually with a series of hallucinatory vignettes that may or may not be the result of unknowingly-ingested LSD. Appearances from gods and goddesses, space aliens, and hostage-taking Post Office robbers spin out alongside the unnamed narrator's humdrum day-to-day: lovesickness, finding a place to crash, and plans for self-improvement devised by his roommate and best friend, Ruby. Unfortunately, none of the goings-on have much effect on the protagonist, who takes personal obstacles and sci-fi plot developments equally for granted. What shines through are the personalities of and relationships among the main characters, whose friendships bloom amidst the disorienting blight of the real and unreal world, spiking Millar's gritty period fantasy with unexpected shots of sweetness. Though winning, the relationship between our bumbling narrator and the assertive but fragile Ruby serves a static plot that follows one unexplained upheaval after another. (Jan.) Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.
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Soft Skull Press
December 15, 2009
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