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Customer Review

2 August 2009
Ostensibly, this is a novel about a road trip in a Nissan Figaro up the A1 by two friends who are an archetypal "odd couple." Jack, a lonely writer and Neil, an uncontainable force of nature, try to find some kind of meaning in their journey north from London but only encounter identikit towns, multiple speed cameras and cold weather. Featuring throughout the story is an audiobook of Kerouac's seminal "On the Road" which seems to mock their progress, starkly highlighting the inadequacy of the pair's own quest. There are many highlights in this work, most notably the sense of realisation on the part of Jack that despite his companion's insistence on living "free" and travelling being a worthwhile pursuit for its own sake, everything has been demystified and no experience can truly be said to change anything in a corporatised, ever closely watched Britain. The themes of constant surveillance and conformity are well explored whilst the character of Jack is a sympatehtic one, standing as he does for a generation of young people who have become hesitant and docile, while still yearning for adventure and excitement. If there is a problem here, it is in the fantastical and dubiously motivated Neil. The root of the friendship is weak at best; Blackman bases their relationship on a chance encounter in a Holloway kebab shop and the otherwise well grounded if timid Jack is too easily swept along by Neil. By the novel's end, one cannot help feeling that were Neil a real person, far from being in awe of his gift for language and his - at times - violently asserted will over others, one would probably want to run away from him as an example of the worst kind of stuck-in-the-past pseudo hippie. Nevertheless, there is a rich promise here and fans of contemporary new fiction should certainly keep a close eye on the name of Andrew Blackman.
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4.0 out of 5 stars