This was BRILLIANT. I'd be happy to be proved wrong, but I am prepared to say now that it's my book of 2010 - I can't imagine that I'm going to come across anything as unique, inspiring and downright excellent in the next few months.
The story begins with Gabriel Brockwell - dreamer, quasi-misanthrope, unfulfilled artist, paradoxically both a pursuer of ultimate decadence and an anti-capitalist - deciding to kill himself... but not quite immediately. The next 300 pages tell the fantastical tale of Gabriel's self-imposed final days, taking in three capital cities, an incerdible cast of oddball characters, an excessive, orgiastic banquet beneath an abandoned airport, and the most bizarre and grotesque menu you've ever seen.
The narrative is wonderful, constantly experimenting with language and packed with unexpected words, succinct yet vivid descriptions, and too many remarkable truisms about human relationships, behaviour/hopes/fears/dreams, and the power of market forces than I could possibly list. The prose is experimental and colourful, yet there are perfectly formed quotes and soundbites on every page. Gabriel's voice is sublime - self-obsessed, negative and hypocritical, but funny, cynical, intelligent and brilliantly debauched as well as sweetly naive and naively charming. He's a literary Withnail, an elegantly wasted raconteur - I fell in love with the character and his flights of fancy, philosophical musings and never-ending brushes with good and bad luck.
DBC Pierre won the Booker Prize in 2003 with Vernon God Little, which is certainly very good, and shares in common with this book a strong first-person narrative voice and playful, intricate, inventive prose; but in my opinion, Lights Out in Wonderland is better. I loved the characters, loved the narrative, loved the story. This is an extraordinary novel. READ IT.