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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 10 September 2009
Jeremy Dyson is the non-acting co-creator of The League of Gentlemen TV series so one might think a novel by him would be full of surreal, very funny characters. Not a bit of it. This is a realist novel with vein of serious romanticism running through it. It is very well written taking its main point of view from Alastair,15 years-old when the novel begins, who has been chosen to take part in a TV programme in which events in history are enacted and parallels are made with what is happening in the world at the present time. Great idea for a TV series, but this one is fictional and takes the story of a Romanian family caught up in the war, reminding us that it wasn't just the Jews of Germany who lived in fear and terror. This family is hidden in a cellar beneath a restaurant and Alastair plays one of the boys. Alastair is actually Jewish and he is affected by a diary one of the other actors, Alice, gives him, written by the character she plays, the sister of Alastair's character.

Alastair, who hasn't much acting experience but is talented enough to learn on the job, finds himself falling for Alice, but is far too inexperienced to do much beyond yearning adolescently. Steve, a slightly older boy in the cast, invites them both to a party, but he has designs on Alice too and it is here that a terrible event occurs which is to wreck much of Alice's life and has repercussions on Alastair too, leading him to make a catastrophic mistake later in his adult life.

The novel is a little plodding in the early chapters and the mixture of narratives, from Alastair's point of view and from Alice's, sometimes interrupt plot development when they might have been more effectively continued. Nevertheless, this is a good novel, with engaging characters and a narrative which resonates and intrigues throughout.
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on 29 April 2006
Jeremys previous book - Never trust a rabbit must now be seen as a writer finding a style, it was a little too mixed! What happens now is a book by a writer who has found his style and is comfortable with it!

Jeremy draws on his experience filming the League of Gentlemen and other shows and mixes it with observations from a certain train journey to Romania. I am guessing this is the train journey Jeremy and Mark made to find the Church in the Ciccerones. The book works well, it draws you in and keeps you hooked to the end, surely everything a book should do! At the end there is a certain completeness that I found I rather will too!
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Jeremy Dyson is one of the co-creators of The League of Gentlemen, although you won't have seen him on screen because he's the mysterious non-acting one. As you might expect, then, What Happens Now opens with a comically sinister scene in which a relatively mundane event terrifies a child. It's an excellent beginning, and establishes a recurring theme of the book: childhood fears of, on the face of it, relatively minor incidents having a long-lasting psychological impact well into the adult lives of Dyson's characters.

This aspect of Dyson's work reminds me a little bit of Jonathan Coe, who happens to be one of my all-time favourite authors. Coe's characters are often haunted by shadowy recollections of childhood trauma, sometimes in ways even they don't fully understand, and as Dyson's story unfolds, it's clear that Alistair Black and Alice Zealand, who once acted together as teenagers in a TV drama, have been irrevocably affected by their experience. The question is, why?

One of the beautiful things about Jonathan Coe's work is the exquisitely-meshed perfection with which every delicate cog of his stories has slotted elegantly into place by the time his books end, and I have to say that Dyson doesn't quite achieve this. Mysteries are mostly cleared up, but things to which considerable time is devoted in the novel are not what I would call properly resolved, or prove to be simply less significant than expected. In this kind of novel, this just makes them seem superfluous, perhaps a little self-indulgent on the author's part. I wanted to find out more about certain aspects of Alistair's life, for instance, and Alice's on-off relationship, as an adult, with a celebrated young artist simply didn't have enough background or connection to the rest of the story beyond serving as a fairly heavy-handed illustration of her apparently inability to commit. One or two characters are also a little overdone: Steve, the cocky co-star opposite whom Alistair and Alice act as teenagers has been cranked up just a couple of notches too high, so a pivotal event involving all three didn't chill me quite as much as it probably should have done simply because I couldn't really believe in Steve as a character.

However, that's not to say What Happens Now isn't an immensely engaging and often fascinating read, and nervous, shy, perpetually embarrassed Alistair Black, with his ever-increasing neuroses, is an entirely believable and largely sympathetic character - which makes the novel's conclusion all the more affecting. What Happens Now is a novel full of misfortunes and misunderstandings, some trivial and some devastating, with an oddly wistful but always unsettling undertone.
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on 28 August 2007
I'm not sure why I picked up this novel; the name of the author rang a bell. Then I realised this was one of the creators of The League of Gentlemen. Compared to Mr Gatiss' work; it's in a league of its own. The story is extremely well-written, the characters are fully fleshed out and the sense of foreboding grows throughout the book. It's a journey, of sorts, from awkward adolescence through to adulthood, via memories of the past and a train journey into the unknown. Highly recommended.
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VINE VOICEon 3 November 2007
Fifteen-year-old Alistair Black is something of an outsider, spending his time making cassette tapes about the imaginary world he has created. That is until a TV producer from the teen series 'Then and Now' comes to his school and casts him in their latest drama. Being cast changes the course of Alistair's life particularly because he meets Alice, a girl he begins to fall for.

I liked this novel very much. It has an underlying darkness and I really enjoyed the intricate structure that transports the reader back and forth in time, allowing us to see both Alice and Alistair as they were in 1981, but also the people that they became. I deducted one star because I felt it dragged a little in the middle, but the ending and the 'defining moment' more than made up for it.

I'm looking forward to seeing what Dyson will produce next. A really promising debut. Recommended.
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on 28 May 2006
Having read Jeremy Dyson's 'What Happens Now' within the space of a few days it's hard to believe that it's his debut novel.

Each chapter is enthralling, every paragraph meaningful...not a wasted line or a word out of place.

Dyson is blessed with the ability to say so much with just a few lines. He has a writing style that is so crisp, concise and unforced that it seems almost effortless...characters and ideas flow off the pages in such a natural way.

Contained within this unaffected style are complex themes; how the past and present collide, the power of imagination - and how these create and shape the fear, regret and self destructiveness of the novel's two main characters - Alistair Black and Alice Zealand.

Alistair Black is the central character and is written with such sympathy, depth of feeling and understanding that the reader is on his side from the opening paragraphs of the novel to the devastating ending.

The story criss-crosses several decades and is brilliantly sustained, enabling you to see the characters at different stages of their lives. Its this narrative arc which allows the book's thematical and emotional complexity to develop with such originality and distinctive depth...its absolutely mesmerising.

There are so many scenes and moments in this novel which I know will stay in my memory long after reading them. Dyson subtly creates such atmosphere and suspense in the incidents befalling his characters. The understated way in which the threatening
menace of a key scene in the novel - a terrible, overwhelming incident that happens one night to Alistair and Alice - is built up makes its appalling conclusion even more shocking. Its a perfect example of a writer at the height of his powers.

Jeremy Dyson's debut novel is simply stunning...a totally unforgettable experience for the reader. If you only read one book this year make it this one...

(If 'What Happens Now' whets your appetite for more Dyson then buy 'Never Trust A Rabbit', a brilliant collection of his short stories)
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on 30 January 2008
I wasn't sure what to expect of this book. I quite like League of Gentlemen and seem to recall enjoying Mr. Dyson's previous book, though I'll be damned if I can remember a thing about it. I bought What Happens Now on the strength of the reviews on the back cover really. And I am incredibly glad I did. Though at times it reads a little like confessional, nostalgic man-lit(and there's nothing wrong with that) it has a darkness and melancholy at its core that is never far away. It is a book that will stay with you long after you finish reading it. Well worth the time and money. Top stuff!
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on 19 July 2012
I bought this book on the strength of Dyson's previous work with the League of Gentlemen and was pleasantly surprised by it's addictive nature. Along with other reviewers, I read it in one session (albeit on a long flight!)

I was impressed by the style of writing which gave fully formed characters, but maintained an air of mystery. The only reason for not awarding 5 stars is a reasonably long middle section which seemed to be a bit of a filler. However the excellent ending to the story was worth it!
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on 20 April 2006
Unlike one of the reviewers, I was unable to read this wonderful book in one sitting - but not for want of trying! There is so much here - it is skilfully and beautifully written and a finely crafted portrait of the insecurities of growing up.There are tender moments and there are truly startling ones. There are scenes which made me laugh out loud and scenes which made me cry, scenes which made me hanker for those awkward times as a teenager and some which filled me with terror.This book is emphatically not just for League of Gentleman fans -don't let the list of the other books bought by other readers put you off.
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on 5 July 2006
I was attracted to the book by the name of the author and as a fan of the League of Gentlemen I was intrigued by what the novel would contain. Picking it up for a quick browse I had soon read the first 19 pages and had better buy it!

The novel is very, very good. Dyson, a Jewish kid who grew up in Leeds looking like a young Bob Dylan, writes about Alastair Black, a Jewish kid growing up in Leeds looking like a young Bob Dylan. How much more of the story is autobiographical I don't know, but Dyson writes with such power and intensity that one suspects that he hopes to exorcise a few ghosts with this book.

Black has the chance to star in a tv programme, but this results in dramatic and life changing consequences for both him and the other main character, Alice Zealand. Their stories are told both in the past and the book's present, but the narrative loses no power using this technique.

Both main characters are realistically presented, and soon readers make the emotional attachment to them--and so what happens to them becomes all the more important. Black, in particular, is presented as an achingly real 1970s schoolboy, desperate to be cool but paralysed by fear and naivete.

Suspenseful, full of foreboding, totally gripping and deeply, deeply moving, this is a marvellous read.
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