Book Review: The Weightless World

Thursday 18 June 2015 by

The Weightless World, Anthony Trevelyan, Book, Galley Beggar PressThe Weightless World by Anthony Trevelyan

Published by Galley Beggar Press

I need to find Ess and look him in the face and tell him pretty much that the whole deal is slipping away from us. And then, if wants to kill me, that’s no business of mine.

We live in an age when things that would once have seemed miraculous are starting to seem mundane – even if they still, sometimes, bring with them profound implications…

~*~

This, the last in the Curtis Brown Book Group, is perhaps the most uncertain book for me. The Weightless World is purposefully vague on the outset. And it is only when Steven, the protagonist, chooses to tell you something that you finally learn it. It is almost uncomfortable reading.

At first you learn that Steven’s boss, Ess, is mad. And then you learn that they are in India on some bizarre mission to find an antigravity machine, and it is Steven’s job to act normal whilst their company goes under back home – just to keep Ess happy.

The premise of the book is as bizarre as its content. This is no simple story going to A to B, but a wild zipwire ride as Steven tries to frantically piece together the full plot, even as it is unravelling out before him.

As a character, I couldn’t warm to Steven. He was selfish, ignorant, cowardly and actually downright mean. Yet he never seemed to find these faults in himself, often excusing his behaviour or not acknowledging it at all. In a way, this is a great piece of characterisation – the story is told in first person, so it stands to reason that you are totally in their head and they are ignorant of their character. But it did make it hard to like him.

And then there’s the dialogue. Which I don’t know whether to applaud or despair of. It is totally surreal, often stepping so far out of the realms of realism that you begin to wonder how it became dialogue in the first place. And yet it seems totally fitting with the bizarre, topsy turvy world that Steven inhabits. The characters are caricatures, the dialogue stilted and unreal, and all the time Steven’s inner voice (and therefore your narrator) is telling him that it isn’t real. I’m sure if I were to reflect on this more, I would decide it’s some kind of brilliant writing ploy.

And that really is where my ambiguity about this book stems from. It is either a fantastic novel of genius intent, or a novel that I just didn’t get. It is these odd contradictions – unlikeable characters that are extraordinarily relatable, off-kilter dialogue that builds in to the prose perfectly – that make it such an odd read.

That isn’t to say I didn’t like it – it’s witty and darkly comic, with rippling tension that builds to a storm-like conclusion. In fact, it’s not really like anything I have read before. There is a thread of sci-fi, of murder mystery, of coming-of-age, and of a myriad of genres that clash loudly and angrily, and yet settle in to something that I read in two days, unable to look away.

The Weightless World, perhaps then, is the perfect bookclub book. The Curtis Brown Book Group should not need to end on a high note (the whole thing has been amazing), but on a book that will encourage discussion and argument. This is a book that wants to prod you in to debate, to philosophise and declaim, to take a stance and then change your mind. The Weightless World, then, carries a certain amount of weight.

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