Thomson (Air and Fire; The Five Gates of Hell) is a hugely talented but hard-to-classify British writer whose books so far have had little in common beyond their soaring imagination and startling vividness of style. Soft!, which is at once a literary thriller of dazzling velocity and a portrait of contemporary London that invites comparison with the best work of Martin Amis, should win him a much wider readership. There are three principal characters. Barker Dodds, a big, rough man who has worked as a bouncer, leaves provincial Plymouth because the family of a local man thinks Barker killed him; he goes to London to try for a new life, only to find he can't escape a violent past. Glade Spencer is an attractive young waitress with an unpredictable American boyfriend who occasionally sends her airline tickets to visit him, but who otherwise seems to be waiting for something to happen. Jimmy is an upwardly mobile young executive at an American-owned soft-drinks company that is about to introduce a new product to the British market; he has a bright--but ultimately dangerous--idea to promote it, designed to impress a fearsome American boss. As these three lives improbably interact, Thomson tells a tale that is at once a scary study of consumer culture, a riveting crime story and a novel in which London itself--its weather, its passers-by, its rooms and its Tube stops--becomes a contributing character portrayed with a dark poetry. Thomson has created dozens of unforgettable cameos to bring his people to life: Barker's earlier girlfriends; Glade's dazzlingly surreal trips to Miami and New Orleans, her sad visits to her bewildered, abandoned father in a caravan in a remote Lancashire field; Jimmy's anxious flirtations. It is rare to find a book of such headlong readability that is also studded with memorable images of people and places. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 08/03/1998 Release date: 08/01/1998 Genre: Fiction
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