by Steve Aylett
US: Paperback - 176 pages (October 30, 2000) Four Walls Eight Windows; ISBN: 1568581750 UK: Hardcover - Orion / Phoenix House in hard cover. ISBN1-861591-24-1
Review by John Berlyne
The publisher blurb for "Atom" states that it's author
Steve Aylett has built up quite a cult following on both sides of the
Atlantic. (I often wonder exactly what "cult" status confers
upon an author - does it mean that not a lot of people actually buy the
books, but lots of people read
"Atom" is a short-sharp-shock of a novel. Only 137 pages long, it reads like a series of advertising culture buzzwords fired from a Howitzer.
Aylett's writing has a comic-book feel to it, graphic and colorful but he sometimes tends to put his story on the back-burner in order to dazzle us with bizarre turns of phrase and tangential concepts. This makes his plot rather hard to summarize, but I'll give it a go...
Taffy Atom is a PI working in the sleazy futuristic city of Beerlight.
He is approached by various parties after the local brain facility is
raided by a Mafioso hireling. The burglar goes AWOL with head-gear of
one Franz Kafka and everyone thinks Atom knows where to find the perp
and the said head. Everyone in this case includes a one-eyed Godfather
To further illustrate what I mean here is a little quote from a scene where Atom and his fellows are holed up in a hotel and are called out by the Police who have been staking the joint out...
"There were eighty rooms in the Bird Street Hotel. Within each a
tableau froze in surprise - grocers laminating the ears of a shuffling
baby elephant, a clown tearing a crucifix from the neck of doubting
priest, a sales demonstration of a cop-issue garroting bar, a
rifle-point pie-eating contest, a faceless man manufacturing codeine ice
cream in a thundering
Outlandish and grotesque though it often is, "Atom" is entertaining for all that. What it lacks in substance it makes up for with effect and with "Atom" Aylett no doubt adds another title to his canon keep the cult fans happy.