This wild, well-paced ride of a book, first published in 1986, was the debut novel from poet, playwright, and academic John Gartland. The novel centers around Brian J. Carver, a bored and seemingly un-remarkable British civil servant with a Literature degree (a rich tradition in storytelling that Gartland makes anew). His is a life spent shuffling papers, writing memos, and devoting as much time as possible to his writing endeavors on the government’s bill.
The whole thing is thrown into motion (after a mysterious scene in Chapter 1 detailing various global gatherings and turmoil that later proves to be a flashback) when the Assistant Senior Inspector decides to transfer our man Carver to a new department, where he can “utilise his talents as a communicator” by “drawing up new forms, modifying old forms and dealing with correspondence about existing forms” (p. 25). Continue reading