English adolescent anomie, told from a male perspective. First-time novelist Fyfe's terse style holds one's attention with the anger of his 17-year-old protagonist, the insidious schoolboy Asher, who leads us through a series of sadomasochistic adventures at home, on the street, and at school. ``Asher prayed. To himself. The prayer of hate,'' reads a typical passage describing Asher's megalomaniacal nihilism, reminiscent of some aspects of the movie Trainspotting. Yet the novel is constricted in impact and reach by the author's better understanding of the what of Asher's hatred than the why of it. While Fyfe seduces with the distinctiveness of his corrosive narrative voice, the fiction as a whole isn't probing enough to avoid a psychological shallowness that allows it to degenerate simply into an onslaught of tight- lipped, grim reports on the young man's ongoing rebellion, from his talent for cruel manipulation—often of the women whom he casually conquers—to his betrayal of a drug-dealer cum crony to the authorities, to his apparent collaborative role in his father's death from medical neglect. ``Life was disposable,'' Fyfe writes. ``He would win, whatever the cost.'' Despite all the dutifully contemporary references to drugs, dissipation, and family dysfunction, though, Asher comes across finally as just an old- fashioned misanthrope, con, and bully who may really want to be dominated and abused by somebody stronger than himself. Improbably, just such a person turns up in the form of an American college girl who gets the better of Asher in sex. Less a novel than an attempt at a mordant, brief glimpse into a sociopath: a debut, filled with indulgences and bravado, that makes an impression despite its weaknesses.
Read full book review >