H(A)PPY Hardcover – 20 Jul 2017
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"H(A)PPY is anything but conventional, subverting the traditions of sci-fi, typography and narrative … The coloured words are joined by a host of typographical flourishes, making the book a bravura piece of design … Barker is as gnomic, terrifying and glorious as ever." (Justine Jordan Guardian)
"Nicola Barker’s kaleidoscopic new novel is a socio-political futurama with a wildness and honesty all of its own … What wonders there are in Nicola Barker’s bewildering, fatiguing and deliciously stimulating new novel … Echoing and quoting literary styles and situations, disrupting the words on the page – via those coloured inks, blank pages, typographical games – in a manner that traces a line from Laurence Sterne to avant-gardists such as BS Johnson, Deborah Levy and Tom McCarthy … But H(a)ppy ventures far beyond a retread of narratological theory … Any description of H(a)ppy can only fail to do justice to its wildness and its honesty. It is a superb novel by a genuinely experimental and committed novelist. In Barker’s hand, narrative, however fragile, not only survives but thrives." (Alex Clark Observer)
"(Barker) specialises in formal eccentricity, thematic novelty, stylistic excess ... Her new book is her strangest yet, an avant-garde slice of dystopian science fiction that thumbs its nose...at the conventions of the genre ... It is a small miracle that this uncompromising anti-novel about the collapse of narrative absolutely works ... Barker is as innovative and idiosyncratic as ever." (Edmund Gordon Sunday Times)
"No book Nicola Barker writes is remotely like a book by anyone else, which is one of the many reasons to celebrate her. Also, no two books by Nicola Barker are doing remotely the same thing, which is another. So you never quite know what you’re in for. And H(A)PPY, even by her own extravagant standards, is very strange indeed … Barker has always been a visionary writer – visionary in style, with past and present interpenetrating in dream and hallucination. But her interest in religious visions and theology here comes to the fore … As I say, Barker is not remotely like any other writer. With its typographical jiggering about (words really do change colour, and some pages have blocks of identical text or no text at all), and its favouring of symbols and ideas over characters, setting and story, it’s more like a poem or artwork than a novel. Still, it’s quite something. I’m just not sure what." (Sam Leith Literary Review)
"With polychromatic printing, creative typography and sheer inspiration, the post-apocalyptic novel has been turned on its head … In most fiction set in totalitarian states, the principal protagonist will gradually realise the monstrosity of the regime…Nicola Barker, one of our greatest contemporary novelists, with typical élan, turns this paradigm inside out … This must be the most beautifully designed book I have read since Mark Z Danielewski’s House of Leaves … As the novel progresses, Barker pulls off an astonishing piece of technique … She is the most unpredictable novelist I know." (Stuart Kelly The Scotsman)
"The English novelist Nicola Barker began publishing in the mid-1990s, hit her stride almost immediately … Barker seems to find writing fiction as natural as breathing, and there’s a strong imaginative streak to almost everything she does … The Prospero role is here assumed by Barker herself, and the parallel is fairly close: creative to excess, more than capable of abusing her omnipotence, blurring the border between genius and dazzle." (Leo Robson New Statesman)
"A trailblazing sci-fi writer makes a bleak future seem fun ... Nicola Barker is the high priestess of weird ... H(A)PPY is the story of one woman's escape from a controlling matrix formed by a powerful artificial intelligence ... As Mira's journey of emancipation progresses, a full-on typographic melodrama explodes off the page ... It's confusing but fun. Barker, along with David Mitchell and Dave Eggers, is an important trailblazer for literary sci-if. H(A)PPY does not present a cheerful version of the future of humanity, but in her hands it is a hauntingly convincing one." (Melissa Katsoulis The Times)
"Lately, no destination on the map of fiction has welcomed so many visitors as the twin islands of utopia and dystopia. When she entered this populous domain, Nicola Barker – the rule-busting, genre-twisting maverick author of 11 previous novels – was never likely to deliver an orthodox post-catastrophe fable of lonely revolt against an all-powerful, all-knowing tyranny … As ever, Barker spins her ingredients into a wild, antic performance with a tuning – comic, satirical, mystical, downright weird – all her own … You might treat H(A)PPY as a creative uprising against the iron laws of dystopia itself … Beautifully designed pages … An occult musical theme drifts through her dystopian architecture … At times I was tempted to read H(A)PPY as a delirious allegory of the “tuning wars” among musicians … Barker layers the emerging tale of Mira’s disobedience with overtones that hum in the background … Not only the ideas but the very words on the page spiral, loop, morph and shatter. Barker’s expressive typography enacts the breakdowns, and breakthroughs, of Mira’s mutiny: not some avant-garde stunt, but the method of George Herbert’s “pattern poems”, or of Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy … She succeeds in tuning the dystopian genre to a fresh, uncanny pitch." (Boyd Tonkin Financial Times)
"H(A)PPY is Barker’s most audacious and important novel since Darkmans … A clever exploration of the compulsive and destructive power of narrative … Language, grammar and typography spiral out of control until they reach the crescendo of a typographical cathedral composed of a “billion tiny calculations” … Barker has always been a wildly experimental writer and never more so than now … [H(A)PPY] demonstrates her visceral sensitivity to words." (Ruth Scurr Times Literary Supplement)
"Nicola Barker’s extravagant, rambling, joyous and more-than-slightly insane novels always present a certain challenge to the reader … No one else writes like Barker does…a reason to cherish her extraordinary work … [H(A)PPY is] an info-shamanic freakout. It’s a work of print art … You don’t read this novel; you let it pour over you … Once again: no one else writes like Barker, and no one else could have written this book." (Daily Telegraph)
From the internationally acclaimed, Man Booker-shortlisted Nicola Barker comes a new novel, a post-post apocalyptic story that overflows with pure creative talent.See all Product description
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Top customer reviews
And Utopia it is. The world is run by and for The Young. People are hooked up to Sensors that turn pink or purple when a person starts to display an Excess Of Emotion, and it will be recorded on The Graph for others to read. This will encourage The Young to return their thoughts to neutral matters as soon as possible, perhaps using chemical assistance.
But all is not well. Mira A’s Graph often turns pink or the purple. She discovers forbidden guitar music by Agustin Barrios that veers dangerously in the direction of free expression. So dangerous is music that musicians can only be referred to in code (numbers that, when read backwards, give each letter’s position in the alphabet). Her alter ego, Mira B seems to be determined to knock her off course.
Through subversion, Mira A experiences sensory overload and accesses a world where her Graph shows shades of green and blue, words forming patterns and blank space.
This is a masterpiece of fun and games, beautifully set in coloured text and graphics. It is a novelty item, yes, but it is also a highly lyrical story which should make us question how far social media is forcing us in a direction of increased social compliance and false emoting.
I loved H(A)PPY and read it in a day.
No two books by her are similar. They are quirky but clever. When you open her books you never know what to expect. This novel is very odd indeed. Miracle A lives in a strange world. She is named after a star.
Barker is a visionary writer in style, and content. She likes religious visions and theology. This novel is essentially about God. There is much wit and Barker's exuberance shines through.
Try it. You will undergo a unique experience.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Absolutely no. A theme here is how systems try to limit you bringing disparate information together, and how narrative ingenuity is what allows the coherence of unrelated material. This uses symbols and music and pictures at various times rather than just text. Barker triumphs at bringing it all together. However if you dislike typographical experimentation (you have to read this in colour, for instance) you probably won't get very far into the book.
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