DBC Pierre’s first book, Vernon God Little, was brilliant. This is better
5/5 Faber & Faber DBC Pierre’s first book, Vernon God Little, was brilliant. Lights Out… is even better. It’s a satirical middle finger up at the banal purgatory of modern life and a reckless manifesto for life, despite its opener: ‘There isn’t a name for my situation. Firstly because I decided to kill myself.’ The author has produced another magnetic narrator in Gabriel Brockwell: ‘A microwave chef. A writer of pamphlets. A product of our time… An activist in two minds. A drinker of chocolate milk.’
We first discover him languishing in rehab, planning his suicide and a last few days of debauchery. Cue a manic jaunt around the world from London – personified as ‘a drinker on the verge of losing her keys’ – to Tokyo and a brush with poisonous torafugu, finally crashing in Berlin. The finale unfolds deep in the bowels of the majestically mental Tempelhof airport.
It’s a complex work, demonstrating a rare verbal dexterity and a gaze by turns philosophical and scathing: ‘You need never be more than slightly nice or slightly clever. Anything more will arouse suspicion… society’s mechanisms are calibrated for stupidity and indolence – and to not be that way is, by definition, antisocial.’
At times the novel is more ridiculous than rapturous and more debauched than divine, but it’s always beguiling. Pierre proves that a book can be insightful and shocking as well as melancholic and wickedly funny. Only someone able to take the mick out themselves and the world they live in so astutely could pull this off: irresistible.