To write about the Underclass, a writer must surely have some knowledge or experience of it, even if all it amounts to is a week or two hanging out in some low-life pub. I'm not going to give a summary of the plot: there are some excellent ones here already. I'll just say that the plot is an engaging one, and Amis a consummate storyteller. Where he falls down, in my opinion, is that he doesn't make me believe in his characters. It's not clear whether he intends them to be outlandish caricatures of benefits scroungers, thugs and teenage mothers. (David Cameron and George Osborne may have picked up their ideas from the same sources.)"Lionel Asbo" is also full of anachronisms. For example, at what sink comprehensive were boys wearing shorts and purple blazers as recently as 2006? Surely a 15-year-old has a mobile phone, even if s/he has nothing else? (Most of the 8-year-olds I know have them.) The book sometimes reads like a poor, contrived pastiche of Dickens, funny surnames, street names and all. Where Amis excels is in his ability to convey a character's physical features in a small number of words, and his beautiful use of simile and metaphor: the sun, in one passage, is fixed in the sky like a gilt tack. "Lionel Asbo" is an enjoyable read, but that isn't enough. I failed to engage with his characters; they seemed rather pathetic, and in the end I didn't really care what happened to them.