Thursday, 4 December 2014

Review of 131 by Julian Cope

131: A Time-Shifting Gnostic Hooligan Road Novel by Julian Cope. £14.99

The marvellous Julian Cope has written a novel! And it has:

A spectacularly vile Bad Guy cult leader. A road trip through Sardinia (131 is the number of Sardinia's only highway). A guide and driver, beautiful and wise, who delivers classic rock-n-roll cars. A protagonist we are introduced to as he is shitting his pants on an aeroplane.

The first few pages tell us we are in the hands of a first-person narrator with all the tick marks for rock-n-roll excess: a burned-out druggie rock-star / football hooligan called Rock Section. Sixteen years before, at a big footie match, Rock and his hooligan mates were imprisoned, and some raped, by the bad guy's cult, resulting in one suicide and (at least) one mental collapse. So Rock is visiting Sardinia to force himself into a final confrontation with the bizarre motivations of the evil gang who did this.

As if this isn't enough, there is entire other layer to the plot, taking place around 10,000 years ago, when there was still a land bridge between the British Isles and mainland Europe, a young heir to the throne of Old Tüpp travelling through a  landscape of twisted language, elder gods and sacrificial imperatives.

This novel displays an extraordinarily deep and bizarre mix of spheres of knowledge: rock-n-roll, drugs, megaliths, prehistory and the old gods are areas I expected Mr Cope to have good knowledge of, but football hooligan antics and soft drinks addictions came as a surprise. This richness generates a texture which is somewhere around Gravity's Rainbow meets Avant Pulp.

I liked the book a lot. It was a compulsive read, and has some very likeable features. For instance, the Bad Guy, Barry Hertzog, bases his cultic ideas on the xtianity of C S Lewis. It does rather seem that Cope and I are of a single mind when it comes to this man's work: pure evil.  

The book is nicely made, a solid paperback, and you get maps at each end: Sardinia with important sites at the front, and a mad, hallucinated Ancient Western Europe at the back.

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