Summary and book reviews of The Book of Dave by Will Self

The Book of Dave

A Novel

By Will Self

The Book of Dave
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     Not Yet Rated
  • Hardcover: Nov 2006,
    416 pages.
    Paperback: Nov 2007,
    512 pages.

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Book Summary

Will Self’s biggest, most ambitious novel yet—a profound meditation upon the nature of religion and a caustic satire of contemporary life.

When London cabdriver Dave Rudman’s wife of five years deserts him for another man, taking their only son with her, he is thrown into a tailspin of doubt and discontent. Fearing Carl will never know him, Dave pens a gripping text—part memoir, part philosophical treatise, and part handbook of London street coordinates—that captures the frustration and anxiety of modern life. Dave buries the book in his ex-wife’s backyard, intending it for Carl when he comes of age.

Five hundred years later, the Book of Dave is discovered by the inhabitants of Ham, the flooded remnants of London, where it becomes a sacred text of biblical proportion, and its author is revered as a mighty prophet. A rant against religion and society, a historical detective story set in the far future, and a tribute to the sometimes fraught relations between father and son, The Book of Dave take on grand themes in a grand manner and clearly positions Will Self in the pantheon of Britain’s contemporary greats.

(Partial Excerpt from Chapter 1)

I
The Hack’s Party
JUN 523 AD*

* Dating is from the purported discovery of the Book of Dave.

Carl De´vu´sh, spindle-shanked, bleach-blond, lampburnt, twelve years old, kicked up buff puffs of sand with his bare feet as he scampered along the path from the manor. Although it was still early in the first tariff, the foglamp had already bored through the cloud and boiled the dew off the island. As he gained height and looked back over his shoulder, Carl saw first the homely notch of Manna Ba¨, then the shrub-choked slopes of the Gayt rising up beyond it. The sea mist had retreated offshore, where it hovered, a white-grey bank merging with the blue screen above. Wot if Eye woz up vair, Carl thought, up vair lyke ve Flyin I? He put himself in this lofty perspective and saw Ham, floating like a water beetle, thrusting out angled legs of grey stone deep into the placid waters of its ultramarine lagoon. The waters ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse

Putting these two subjective points aside (explained in the full review), The Book of Dave is a wickedly clever satirical novel that presents a humane and fallible protagonist (Dave) in a funny, albeit sometime depressing, vision of our possible future. As always, don't take BookBrowse's word for it, instead read a substantial excerpt (exclusive to BookBrowse) representing both the present and future storylines, and decide for yourself whether it's a book for you.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

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Media Reviews
Kirkus Reviews

Much of this is superb, but a byzantine plot ..is simply tedious...this is indeed divided: by turns acrid, funny and perversely moving, yet marred by sourness, shrillness and redundancy.

Booklist - Frank Sennett

Starred Review. This searing satire...is as rousing an indictment of organized religion - and especially fundamentalism - as readers are likely to encounter in the post-9/11 canon.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Self is endlessly talented, and in crossbreeding a fantasy novel with a scorching satire of contemporary mores, he's created a beautiful monster of the future that feeds on the neurotic present—and its parents.

The Telegraph UK

The Book of Dave is Self's most successful novel to date. Funny, frightening, moving, its premise is that the unhinged and misogynistic rantings of a London cabbie are unearthed in a future capital (by then just a series of islands). Taking more of an interest in character than ever before, Self tells the sad story of Dave alongside that of the mangled-cockney-speaking, fearful new world in which a soul is a "fare", "irony" is the word for any metal, and Dave is always watching his people in the Rearview.

The Telegraph UK - Jonathan Bate

Self is an incorrigible wordsmith ... The foundational pun in this book is the name of the Hamsters' religion, Dävinanity. The cabbie's rant is Self's device for castigating the inanity of all scriptures. In less enlightened times, this conceit would have earned him a place on the Pope's Index Librorum Prohibitorum and a fatwa from the Ayatollah for good measure ....[W]hether or not Self's Hammier chapters will endure, there is no doubt that those written in the voice of Dave offer just about the funniest and most depressing vision we could have of where we are here in 'Ing' right now.

Time Out (London UK) - John O'Connell

Control is a quality Self has had to learn: previous books have sometimes felt undone by their author’s sheer facility, as if Self believed his main duty as a novelist was simply to get the stuff down on the page. But The Book of Dave is considered as well as impassioned, kind as well as cruel. Black cabbies are easy to caricature, and Self’s achievement here, amid the satirical fireworks, is to make Dave not only human but capable of redemption. The result is one of the finest and funniest London novels in years.

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Beyond the Book

Will Self is the author of a number of short-story collections including The Quantity Theory of Insanity (winner of the 1992 Geoffrey Faber award), Grey Area and Tough Tough Toys for Tough Tough Boys. He is also the author of six novels including Cock and Bull, My Idea of Fun, Great Apes, How the Dead Live (shortlisted for the Whitbread Novel of the Year 2000) and The Book of Dave. His next book, The Butt, will be published in the UK in April 2008. Together with photographer David Gamble, he produced Perfidious Man, a sideways look at contemporary ...

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