Steve Aylett

Scar Garden Press / 192 pages / (December 19, 2011)

ASIN: B006O4V7Q2

Have you noticed how you can never really describe your dreams? The more you concentrate, the harder it is to pin down the details. Little wisps of plot escape — the most interesting parts slip away. Is that enough build-up to tell you I’m not sure I can capture Slaughtermatic in a review?

In any event, there’s your warning.

Slaughtermatic is an experiment on paper. Not since John Sladek has a writer had so much fun playing with words. (If Sladek isn’t a familiar name to you, you’ve missed out on one of the best satirist in SF. Rectify that, right away.) Aylett twists definitions and toys with everyday expressions, to add meanings that would never occur to the average, sane person.

When his characters speak, nothing that comes out of their mouths won’t surprise readers. Good guys, bad guys — they’re all gangster-savants. Warped philosophy and scrambled clich├ęs mix with the infrequent coherent snippet to form a bizarre, hoodlum language like James Cagney never dreamed of. That fits, because this is a civilisation from those nightmares you can’t believe come out of your own brain.

Slaughtermatic is a tale of a (hopefully) far future where crime is an art and being a victim makes a citizen the police’s primary target. No need to worry about witnesses, either; they’re doomed, too. These aren’t crooked cops; they’re Gordian knots of corruption and insanity.

All in all, it’s a hoot. Many of the best lines are laugh-out-loud funny, or groan-and-roll-your-eyes bad. And both kinds are good.

That’s the upside. Slaughtermatic is a mess. A chaotic, confusing tangle of virtual and fictional reality that, at times, is impossible to decipher. At times, it’s easiest to let the prose wash over you and wait for understanding to catch up. Sometimes it doesn’t, but by the last page the overall picture is clear enough, and the lasting impression is a positive one. Just don’t insist on comprehending everything at once. Or every little word. Look for the big picture.

Aylett is a virtual unknown in North America. If you want more of his work, you may have to travel the Net to his homeland in England. If you don’t mind waiting, Slaughtermatic is certain to be the first of many novels available on this side of the Atlantic.

Go ahead. Slaughtermatic is a workout for the brain, but you’ll feel better for it. Just remember: the big picture.