Thursday, August 21, 2008

Boxy an Star

by Daren King
Abacus 1999


A novel set in some kind of near-future England and written in the vernacular-specatular style. It therefore calls both on Trainspotting and A Clockwork Orange but in terms of individuality leaves both these other books behind. Boxy an Star is like a small alternative universe floating somewhere alongside ours. There is a strong case for it being the best lyrical vision of the UK ecstasy culture and associated fall out – perhaps because it concentrates on the warped personalities arising as side effects of drug use and it doesn't hammer on about the drugs themselves.

The tale is told by Bole, a teenage boy, about Star, his girlfriend, and Boxy, his drug dealer. It starts at a party under a duvet they mistake for a giant bag of pills, and they pay a visit to a lady called Prim who has a strange lover who scares the daylights out of them. They travel to Wolfer Humpton as drug couriers, but fail at this task. Nothing much matters except that they are trying to get pills most of the time, and unfortunately the groan ups of the world keep standing in their way.

Bole narrates with a voice inspired by text messages and teletubbies. A teenager without any schooling, he sounds like a toddler encased in an adult body. Sentences are broken down to fragments. Like. Words have. Fullstops after them. And the spelling is. Halfway finetic. Or progressing into slang euphemisms. Like. Cuntstable Pineapplehead. Stinkies an jeanies. Smellovision. An ballbag. Words are often chosen because they rhyme or are inappropriate.

There is less description and a lot of superb dialogue. Most of the jokes revolve around Bole and Star being too stoopid or too naive to understand what's really going on. The dominant theme is about innocence in a corrupt world, and the secondary theme is probably the love between Bole and Star. Essentially this is a vignette with no sense of resolution, but despite the sad elements the humour and warmth shines through.

A few questions remain: Like, what's with the recurring complimentary colours, blue and orange? Is the dead boy here for anything other than abstract reasons?

This is a great novel but it could have been even greater. The references to prozac and facial piercings seem to suggest current day Britain, but other elements such as the “spangles” that flood the streets imply a distant future. A few small alterations would have rendered the setting in a plausible, near future instead of a what feels like a slightly different dimension. And another layer could have been added by defining the plot a little further. There is no real character development from chapter to chapter and significant things seem to happen without due reflection.

King has yet to produce another book which is quite so interesting and seems to be moving towards children's fiction. Rumours persist of a Boxy an Star movie.

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