Review: What Happens Now by Jeremy Dyson

What Happens Now
What Happens Now by Jeremy Dyson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Last year I enjoyed Jeremy Dyson’s off-kilter, Roald-Dahl-gone-extra-bad visions in the short story collection ‘Never Trust a Rabbit’. I’d been intending to read more by him when I got the chance, so this year I snapped up his novel at the library.

With parts set in the 1980s, and hopping back and forth to the present day, ‘What Happens Now’ took a little while to get going, but that seemed to be a deliberate method to ease the reader into the inner worlds of screwed up minds and early teenage heartache. Once I got into the flow it really drew me in as I tried to figure out how the threads in each chapter wove together. When the devastating revelation is reached it felt like suddenly being at the top of a high roller coaster, and we’re sent into very painful freefall as all the chapters suddenly knit together.

The mystery of a terrible event and who it happens to, and who instigates it, is what kept me gripped from start to finish. A sense of unease vibrates beneath apparently innocent teenage ‘growing up’ and our reactions to it are left for us to figure out along the way. There’s also the bigger question of reality at stake. Is reality only what we make of it? Does God create others who dream like he does? These mysteries make this a bigger story, a more universe- encompassing, morally questioning and curiously spiritual story, than it first appears. Given the era and it actually felt like a more upsetting version of Richard Ayoade’s film, ‘Submarine’, in fact. That’s purely in the era, not the story.

Jeremy Dyson is quickly becoming one of my favourite writers and I’m very glad to have another book of short stories by him on the shelf all ready to go.

SPOILERS BELOW!

In an earlier review of the ‘Kite Runner’ I compared the themes in that book with ‘What Happens Now’ and it’s very interesting how the two authors dealt with something as traumatic as rape and betrayal. I mean, hopefully this event is still very shocking to most readers, and I felt that the way it’s dealt with in ‘WHN’ keeps it clear of melodramatic cliche. It helps that there’s a sympathetic protagonist who makes a roundabout, somewhat surreal attempt at redemption. There’s also more insight into the victim themselves, which provides much needed balance and insight into the effects of this violent act. ‘The Kite Runner’s’ attempts at a similar redemption seemed comparatively hamfisted and rather one note, although of course the act is just as shocking. For this reason I still prefer Jeremy Dyson’s approach, and after reading ‘WHN’ I felt much more moved and quite deeply affected.

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IT Crowd Season 4 (UK) 2010 Episode One

Make mine Moss!

Episode One: Jen the Fredo

Not being much of a Big Brother fan ( I will run screaming from the room), I end up avoiding Channel 4 for most of the summer – which is why I nearly missed the return of one the channel’s silliest, most loveable comedy shows. Moss, Roy and Jen are back at Reynham Industries, taking on the corporate world from the safety of their basement.

I was pleased to see that the basement still looks as though Forbidden Planet and Japan had exploded inside it. It’s full of references to everything from V for Vendetta to Zelda. Pehaps Moss (Richard Ayoade), the show’s uber-geek, is in charge of this scenery? Moss has always been the best part of the show, and is possibly the most deliciously awkward character on the planet, although he’s a little underused in this episode. I think he’s saving his geek powers for his appearence on Countdown next week.

Instead, the plot revolves around Jen (Katherine Parkinson), who wants a little more to her job than babysitting Moss and a lovelorn Roy (Chris O’Dowd) and applies for the position of Cultural Events Manager (the ‘Fredo‘) at Reynham Industries. Everyone says it’s not for her, and she soon discovers why – the businessmen aren’t interested in seeing Mamma Mia, they had something a little less disturbing in mind. They want ladies to, er, ‘dance’ with. So, naturally, Jen turns them over to the care of Roy and Moss. An emotional evening of playing Dungeons and Dragons awaits!

This show still loves its geeks, and the healing power of Dungeons & Dragons bonds everyone very sweetly. Jen has turned into a full on pimp by the end of it, but I think she’ll recover, even after she learned what happened to the Godfather’s Fredo. Douglas Reynham also survives a visit from the feminist lobby, who awarded him a very unflattering statue, and has to use his charms on Miranda (Dolly Wells), which goes rathr better than expected.

The series has shown steady improvement over the last few years – but it’s still very hit and miss. The last season relied heavily on its characters without really doing anything very interesting with them. It still does a good job of filtering topical ideas and making them into true sitcom situations, particuarly the one with the friendly German cannibal!

I felt this episode held together pretty strongly, with a sweet line in thwarted ambition and consequence free sexual harrassment. Of course it was obvious that D&D was going to be used to save the day, but I liked Jen’s Fredo payoff right at the end. This is still  the best show taking the piss out of the insanity of work since the Office, (UK version anyway), and delights in sending up those who squat at the top of the corporate ladder and those who crouch below it.

A great start to the new season, and you can watch it smoothly on youtube right here!