A Rabbit of an Entirely Different Sort
I miss that Jamie Delano doesn’t do a lot of comic books anymore. His HELLBLAZER was a must read for me throughout high school. When I think of John Constantine, it’s Delano that I think of. His voice. His strange jittery world. As an adult, his OUTLAW NATION, even while truncated by cancellation, is one of the great interesting alternate history works out there in any format. But, the comic world’s loss is very much the book world’s gain.
His second novel, LEEPUS: DIZZY, is a very dank, very personal, delving into a possible future for England nee Inglund. Our main man, Leepus, is a survivor. A “griz” in the vernacular of his world. Older. Perhaps doddered. Life tested. Burned out. Doing his best in a fascist word. Guiding his anarchist neighborhood as best as he is able. Drug addled. Poka addicted. And yes, dizzy. Dizzy by design. Dizzied by his world.
Delano pulls no punches with this novel. It’s dark. It’s depressed. It’s depraved. You aren’t given a chance to get your bearings. You are thrown off the deep end. Like Anthony Burgess’ A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, it’s sink or swim as you may. It’s an aggressive and bold play. And I’ll admit, the first few chapters were hard. The dialogue especially, opaque, the slang coming hard and fast, the future lingo mixed into the street patois, the Inglund dialect with it missing consonants blurring your eyes. And then, suddenly, beautifully, it opens – and you find yourself captivated, captured, bagged and dragged off, by Leepus and his constant machinations, his ever shifting world.
Much like OUTLAW NATION with its defined world philosophy teeming behind the action, even with an unreliable point of view like Leepus, Delano develops a viable, breathing, intricate world, with its own logical structure to it. Even amongst the chaos. Especially amongst the chaos. The government may be ghostly in the outer world of Leepus, but they have a real physical, tangible presence in every page. There is a world there, even if we the reader are only dimly seeing it. Not a paper world, but a deep, thick, ugly world. It’s like a flipped coin of Alan Moore’s V FOR VENDETTA. Not the city folk. Not where “England prevails.” Where it does not. In the hinterlands. Where the spirit of chance is always there, taunting you.
What really strikes the reader is how brittle, how fragile, this world, this Inglund, and by extension our world, our own Englands, are. As fragile as Leepus himself. 2014 seems to have been the year of the future of England. When I thought about William Gibson’s THE PERIPHERAL, I noted how it was infused with nostalgia, a true nostalgia. The characters that hearken back to the past are those who come off least damaged. They have an acceptance, and a reverence, for that past. In a real sense, Delano is the anti-Gibson. There is not even a veneer of longing for the past, it’s simply one more commodity, one that comes covered in blood. Sentiment brings destruction here. Another dark alley to avoid. Leepus own acknowledgment’s of the past, his past, cut him to the quick. Without giving too much away, in the end we are given a very dark meditation on what it means to live with your art. It’s decidedly bittersweet.
The mystery within the mystery that Delano hangs the story on is extremely well-plotted. I kept thinking, there are too many threads unraveling, too many plots, too many spoons in the soup, too many aces in the deck, too many balls in the air. But Delano deftly weaves the characters and their narratives together. Like Leepus’ addiction, the poka, the wandering cards of chance, I fell for his bluff several times. Leepus would have been able to fleece me in a second. Less than a second. He’s not always right, but like all good poka players, and games, the bluff will sometimes get you over the hump. Delano carries that all the way through to the very last pages. I wouldn’t play cards with Leepus, but I certainly would follow his lead.
LEEPUS: DIZZY is available through Delano’s publishing company, lepus books at http://www.jamiedelano.co.uk/ in both eBook and print editions. Grab it. Buy it. As an aside, the print is a beautifully put together book. I love the sharp crisp thick white paper, the slick cover with the gradients you can feel. I do loves me something I can hold. The Luddite says, go paper, not paperless.