Ruby and the Stone Age Diet

Martin Millar, Author Soft Skull Press $13.95 (152p) ISBN 978-1-59376-232-2

In this charming but aimless tale, the everyday harshness of drugs, heartbreak, and poverty in London's gritty south side mingles casually with a series of hallucinatory vignettes that may or may not be the result of unknowingly-ingested LSD. Appearances from gods and goddesses, space aliens, and hostage-taking Post Office robbers spin out alongside the unnamed narrator's humdrum day-to-day: lovesickness, finding a place to crash, and plans for self-improvement devised by his roommate and best friend, Ruby. Unfortunately, none of the goings-on have much effect on the protagonist, who takes personal obstacles and sci-fi plot developments equally for granted. What shines through are the personalities of and relationships among the main characters, whose friendships bloom amidst the disorienting blight of the real and unreal world, spiking Millar's gritty period fantasy with unexpected shots of sweetness. Though winning, the relationship between our bumbling narrator and the assertive but fragile Ruby serves a static plot that follows one unexplained upheaval after another.