Author: Mikael Niemi
Publisher: Harvil Secker
297 pages • £12
There's some insect or another (the bumble-bee, is it?) that’s such an aerodynamic disaster that it shouldn’t be able to fl y, only it does, so there.
Swedish author Mikael Niemi’s Astrotruckers shouldn’t work. It breaks all the rules; so much so that it’s tempting not to describe it, because any half-way accurate description will sound so off-putting that you won’t buy the book. But you should. Really.
Astrotruckers is a loosely-themed collection of musings, essays and pensées – yes, but damn it, it is. No plot. No characters. Just an inconsistently characterised narrator talking, telling the occasional anecdote but mostly just holding forth on the meaning of life, the universe and everything. Though mildly amusing, it’s not meant to be laugh-out-loud funny. What should make matters worse is that the universe about which the narrator wryly and whimsically pontificates is entirely made up...
And yet: the bumble-bee spreads its wings and it doesn’t just fly, it soars. This is a jaw-dropping, gobsmacking wonder of a book. The nearest comparison is the Book entries in The Hitchhiker’s Guide; except they’re played for laughs with a grain of truth in there somewhere; Niemi does it the other way round. His universe, though internally inconsistent, is instantly credible. Niemi’s techniques come from journalism, travel writing, autobiography and non-fiction. Some pieces are wonderful, some weird and wonderful – some just plain weird. It really shouldn’t work, but...
We’re putting you off, right? So; don’t read this, read Astrotruckers. You won’t regret it.