Before we get on to my review of Dave Gullen’s debut novel Shopocalypse, there’s some stuff you need to know.
Firstly, Dave is a friend. Secondly, Monico, who publish Shopocalypse, also published my short story collection Downside Girls. Given these two facts, you might expect a partisan review.
When I write a review or give a critique, I’m honest. If I don’t like something I’m critiquing I say why (privately), because that’s how an author improves – constructive criticism. In a written review, I note the negatives then move onto a book’s positive points. If a book has too few positive points for me to get on with it, I don’t review it.
The only other piece of Dave Gullen’s writing I’d read was at the Milford SF writer’s workshop and, frankly, I didn’t get on with it. As Milford is about delivering critiques, I did my best to say why. This was a few years back but when he asked me to consider reading his upcoming novel with a view to possibly giving a cover quote, I was uneasy. However, friends can be honest with each other, so I said I’d take a look. If the book didn’t work for me, no quote would be forthcoming and we’d still be friends.
That wasn’t what happened. Instead, I loved Shocolapyse. I cared about the characters – loser and weirdoes though many of them are, not to mention the one that’s a car – from the start. I also laughed from the start. And then the satire kicked in. And the really weird shit. But it all hung together. It worked.
If I had to label this book I’d say it’s near future SF. Or possibly a techno-thriller; a very funny techno-thriller. Also, absurdist satire. And maybe magical realism, sort of. Also, a road movie. And … yeah. I can’t really label it.
I can say it is one of the best books I’ve read this year. It’s one of the most original books I’ve read in many years. It’s mad and bad and you need to read it. Which you can by buying it, ironically enough.
(For the record: Dave has already bought me a drink this year, so I can assure you that no one bribed me to say any of the above.)