A cultured, witty, and very British attack on vapid reality TV values, set in an empty-souled tomorrow.



In this debut novel, a reality TV game show in the future seeks out pathetic individuals while its host loses enthusiasm for his tawdry job.

In London in 2072, Liam Argyle is an undistinguished, aging bachelor, meteorologist/gamer, unexpectedly cast as the host of Grass Is Greener on a network subsidiary of the all-dominating, Rupert Murdoch-esque RedCorp. This behemoth streams programs directly to the augmented reality implants people carry in their eyeballs or spectacles. GiG immerses viewers in point-of-view feeds from working-class folks with the most demeaning lives and careers. Viewer votes eliminate wretched contestants until the most deserving one wins an elite, off-planet life. Subjects include Liam’s old university political science professor, fearful of losing his position; a one-armed Cuban refugee who contracts illnesses as a medical test subject; a kvetching woman who cleans suicide scenes; a loathsome functionary who denies health care to the poor; and a husky Native American, the United States’ last flesh-and-blood porn star amid robots. Lawless is an admirer of Douglas Adams but the tale’s relationship to the riotous Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is mostly in footnotes that expound wryly on word origins, cultural asides, or non sequiturs. Once Mars resorts and sex droids are factored out, Lawless’ story skews more toward Evelyn Waugh’s urbane savagery or boardroom and business satires like Ernie Kovac’s novel Zoomar. Liam eventually balks at the cruel choices made by the Machiavellian show’s creators (a comatose, cancer-stricken contestant is allowed to lie unaided in the street). Even Liam is subject to humiliatingly staged nonevents and injury in bids for high AR viewership. Yesteryear’s SF authors could be eerily accurate in predicting reality TV, but in the context of entertainment centered on murder and death. Lawless’ clever novel reflects the present day’s digital media voyeurism and Survivor/Big Brother exploitation—no camera-equipped hit men, but still sardonic, with an ultimately dark outlook on the amoral peddling of schadenfreude, Thanatos, and boffo ratings. The work skews close enough to the real thing to make readers uncomfortable and perhaps wish for a little of Stephen King’s The Running Man, where the answer is to blow the whole place up. Liam is an especially feckless hero and practically useless as a rebel against the system. There is a hint this will change in a sequel. 

A cultured, witty, and very British attack on vapid reality TV values, set in an empty-souled tomorrow.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-949671-04-9

Page Count: -

Publisher: Uproar Books, LLC

Review Posted Online: Oct. 29, 2019

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Britisher Swift's sixth novel (Ever After, 1992 etc.) and fourth to appear here is a slow-to-start but then captivating tale of English working-class families in the four decades following WW II. When Jack Dodds dies suddenly of cancer after years of running a butcher shop in London, he leaves a strange request—namely, that his ashes be scattered off Margate pier into the sea. And who could better be suited to fulfill this wish than his three oldest drinking buddies—insurance man Ray, vegetable seller Lenny, and undertaker Vic, all of whom, like Jack himself, fought also as soldiers or sailors in the long-ago world war. Swift's narrative start, with its potential for the melodramatic, is developed instead with an economy, heart, and eye that release (through the characters' own voices, one after another) the story's humanity and depth instead of its schmaltz. The jokes may be weak and self- conscious when the three old friends meet at their local pub in the company of the urn holding Jack's ashes; but once the group gets on the road, in an expensive car driven by Jack's adoptive son, Vince, the story starts gradually to move forward, cohere, and deepen. The reader learns in time why it is that no wife comes along, why three marriages out of three broke apart, and why Vince always hated his stepfather Jack and still does—or so he thinks. There will be stories of innocent youth, suffering wives, early loves, lost daughters, secret affairs, and old antagonisms—including a fistfight over the dead on an English hilltop, and a strewing of Jack's ashes into roiling seawaves that will draw up feelings perhaps unexpectedly strong. Without affectation, Swift listens closely to the lives that are his subject and creates a songbook of voices part lyric, part epic, part working-class social realism—with, in all, the ring to it of the honest, human, and true.

Pub Date: April 5, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-41224-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1996

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Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of...


Lifelong, conflicted friendship of two women is the premise of Hannah’s maudlin latest (Magic Hour, 2006, etc.), again set in Washington State.

Tallulah “Tully” Hart, father unknown, is the daughter of a hippie, Cloud, who makes only intermittent appearances in her life. Tully takes refuge with the family of her “best friend forever,” Kate Mularkey, who compares herself unfavorably with Tully, in regards to looks and charisma. In college, “TullyandKate” pledge the same sorority and major in communications. Tully has a life goal for them both: They will become network TV anchorwomen. Tully lands an internship at KCPO-TV in Seattle and finagles a producing job for Kate. Kate no longer wishes to follow Tully into broadcasting and is more drawn to fiction writing, but she hesitates to tell her overbearing friend. Meanwhile a love triangle blooms at KCPO: Hard-bitten, irresistibly handsome, former war correspondent Johnny is clearly smitten with Tully. Expecting rejection, Kate keeps her infatuation with Johnny secret. When Tully lands a reporting job with a Today-like show, her career shifts into hyperdrive. Johnny and Kate had started an affair once Tully moved to Manhattan, and when Kate gets pregnant with daughter Marah, they marry. Kate is content as a stay-at-home mom, but frets about being Johnny’s second choice and about her unrealized writing ambitions. Tully becomes Seattle’s answer to Oprah. She hires Johnny, which spells riches for him and Kate. But Kate’s buttons are fully depressed by pitched battles over slutwear and curfews with teenaged Marah, who idolizes her godmother Tully. In an improbable twist, Tully invites Kate and Marah to resolve their differences on her show, only to blindside Kate by accusing her, on live TV, of overprotecting Marah. The BFFs are sundered. Tully’s latest attempt to salvage Cloud fails: The incorrigible, now geriatric hippie absconds once more. Just as Kate develops a spine, she’s given some devastating news. Will the friends reconcile before it’s too late?

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of poignancy.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36408-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2007

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