I feel ambivalent about this book. On the one hand it's cleverly written, I like the way Dave's Knowledge and language, even the names, echo down into the post apocalyptic world. The brutality arising from their interpretation of his rantings as a religion is hard to read at times but it's a very clever satire on organised religion.
On the other hand I found the ending unsatisfactory, as though it fizzled out. What was the point of nearly but not quite rediscovering Dave's second Book? And poor Symon dying hours before he was found by his son! This seemed like gratuitous cruelty on Self's part, hammering into his readers again and again the relentless hopelessness of his characters' lives.
But my discussion questions are these:
Where is New London meant to be? It can't be where old London was because that's all under water. In a way I suppose it doesn't really matter, but it bothered me and spoilt it for me somewhat.
And, what is it with the motos? Are we meant to assume they're a cross between humans, cows and pigs, and if so I wonder why and when and how.........? (I know there isn't an answer probably but what do others think?) The emotional connection between moto and lad is obviously significant, but like a previous reviewer I feel Self backed away from exploring this.
I wondered about the motos too. I havent finished the book yet, but I'm assuming they are never properly explained. At the start of the novel, Dave picks up a scientist that works at some genetic research lab and i wondered if maybe the motos were the result of some kind of experiment that the scientist was involved in. The most disturbing thing about them is that they can speak english, and the book features a harrowing scene quite early on in which a moto cries out in pain and pleads for its life as it is slaughtered by the humans. Would we still be up for killing and eating animals if they acted in this way?
Yeah, the motos got to me as well. But from the nicknames given to Carl in the near-present side of the book (Gorj, Runty, Tiger, Champ etc.) I believe they are supposed to be animorphisms (of some kind) of the death of childhoods, or more specifically, Carl's childhood.
I think New London is supposed to be somewhere around Nottingham, as that's what the map at the beginning would indicate (and the story).
The motos, like so much else, are left pretty much unelaborated, other than the references early on - the fare going to the research lab, and then when they cut open the moto to check for the CalBioTech writing inside. As great as it would be to have further explanation, and maybe even a sequel, I think Self's done the right thing in leaving most of it to our own crude speculation (it's a big enough tome as it is).
I never quite got the "toyist" thing though - the motos were obviously toyist, in so much as they were produced and not normal animals, yet the writing under the skin was proof for the Hamsters that the motos were real. One can only assume this is another of the misinterpretations made in the future?
Once you've finished the book, it's quite nice to go onto Google maps and search for Hampstead Heath. You can find most of the place names on Ham (the ones for the rest of Ing are probably obvious to any UK reader, although I still can't find Nimar anywhere), which is interesting.
Did everyone get this passage "The child hadn't been a part of him at all - he was from another species, half human, half something else. He had been engineered only to be loved and then sacrificed, his corpse rendered down for whatever psychic balm it might provide." I wasn't sure reading this if the future was meant to be read literally, or as some kind of representation of Daves subconscious - a bit like a dream sequence!? The moto's even have Cal's name stamped on them. So many questions, but l loved the book.
I always felt the moto's were genetically engineered creatures - One of dave's fares worked for a company with the same name as that which is stamped on the inside of the dead moto's skin in chapter 1- the fare says to dave "I work for calBiotech, we're one of the organisations developing human genome patents" this is the same name they find stamped on Runti after the killing. this seems to prove to the "hamsters" that the moto is not fake, or "toyist". however if the moto is an evolution of a gentically engineered creature or a splice of human and pig/cow then surely the moto's ARE toyist??
I think Self deliberately introduced the CalBioTech thing early so that we'd develop our own backstory for the motos, and it kind of dupes you into thinking it's going to be a typical Mad Max type post-apocalyptic affair. I assumed they were man-pig splice things, maybe bred to produce donor organs or something. Either way, as the plot progresses it seems like the future stuff becomes less literal and is more one big extended metaphor. Like someone already said; the motos are closely related to childhood, and the thing that's special about Ham is that the young Hamsters are encouraged to actually nurture something. The whole of the book seems like a lament on patriarchy and how damaging it is for society (and men themselves) when men are discouraged from nurturing, or nurture clumsily in an aggressive kind of way (like the Fathers For Justice references). Most of future-Carl's story seems to fill in the gaps of what present-Carl must have been going through; note the similarity's between the description of Dave digging "that beastly man" and the Beestlimun.