If the world needs another Bret Easton Ellis, New Zealand author Perkins could be a contender. Her debut novel, populated with disgruntled twentysomethings like those in her story collection, Not Her Real Name (not reviewed), promises sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll, but after an exciting start delivers mostly ennui.
Daniel is an unemployed young Londoner going nowhere when his friend Richard and an unsavory character named Sticksy sucker him into making a drug run from Bangkok to Auckland. It isn’t the lure of beer, beach, and Thai virgins that makes Daniel jump at the offer, but the idea of adventure and the $10,000 he hopes will give him the chance to make a new start. A few weeks later, confined to his room and the murky pool at a tacky Pattaya resort, he’s rethinking his rash decision as his anxiety intensifies along with his sunburn and stomach ills, but he’s afraid to do anything except wait for his instructions. By the time Daniel’s contact shows up with the heroin-filled condoms he’s to ingest and smuggle through customs, the tension is deliciously unbearable. Perkins skillfully sets up Daniel’s dilemma and maintains the pace right through his arrival in New Zealand. But then she shifts to the travails of a group of local slackers, zeroing in on Kate, an underachiever who works as an usher in a movie theater. The action shifts back and forth from Daniel to Kate until, inevitably, the two meet but never really connect, the depths of their alienation painfully apparent. While Perkins effectively captures the mood and mores of her subjects, once Daniel’s mission is complete, the anguish of youth takes center stage and the story goes flat.
Young people lacking ambition, confused about relationships and searching for the meaning of life: what else is new?