Excerpt from The Book of Dave by Will Self, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Book of Dave

A Novel

by Will Self

The Book of Dave
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  • First Published:
    Nov 2006, 416 pages
    Paperback:
    Nov 2007, 512 pages

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(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 intensified the beetle island’s myriad greens: its golden wheatie crop, its purple, blue and mauve flowering buddyspike, its yellowy banks of pricklebush and its feathery stands of fireweed. The whole lustrous shell was picked out by a palisade of blisterweed, the lacy umbels of which trimmed the entire shoreline.

The real island was quite as vivified as any toyist vision, the southeast-facing undulation of land audibly hummed. Bees, drugged by the heat, lay down in the flowers, ants reclined on beds of leaf mould, flying rats gave a liquid coo-burble – then stoppered up. To the south a few gulls soared above the denser greenery of the Ferbiddun Zo¨n.

The little kids who’d left the manor with Carl had run on ahead, up the slope towards the Layn, the avenue of trees that formed the spine of Ham. These thick-trunked, stunted crinkleleafs bordered the cultivated land with a dark, shimmering froth. Carl saw brown legs, tan T-shirts and mops of curly hair flashing among the trunks as the young Hamsters scattered into the woodland. Reedy whoops of joy reached Carl’s ears, and he wished he could go with them into Norfend, galumphing through the undergrowth, sloshing into the boggy hollows to flush out the motos, then herd them towards their wallows.

Up from the manor in a line behind Carl came the older lads – those between ten and fourteen years old – whose graft it was to oversee the motos’ wallowing, before assigning the beasts their day’s toil. Despite everything, Carl remained the acknowledged gaffer of this group, and, as he swerved off the path along one of the linchets dividing the rips, the other eight followed suit, so that the whole party were walking abreast, following the bands of wheatie as they rolled up the rise.

Carl remembered how this ground had been in buddout, each rip mounded with a mixture of moto dung, seaweed, birdshit and roof straw. The motos had deftly laid their own fresh dung, but the other ingredients had to be dug from the byres, scraped from the rocks and gathered from the shore by the older girls and opares.

Next the mummies laboriously dragged truckle after truckle of the mixture up from the manor, before spreading and digging it into the earth with their mattocks. There were no wheels on Ham – save for symbols of them – and therefore no cars or vans either, so the Hamsterwomen tilled the long rips themselves – a team of six yoked to the island’s sole plough, with its heavy irony share. Now the ripening wheatie stood as high as his knees, and it looked as if it would be a good crop this year – not that Carl would necessarily be there to see the mummies grind it under the autumn foglamp, their bare breasts nuzzling the hot stone of their querns as they bent sweatily to the graft.

– Ware, guv, said Billi Brudi, catching Carl’s eye as they reached the linchet bordering the next rip and together stepped over it.

Excerpted from The Book of Dave by Will Self Copyright © 2006 by Will Self. Excerpted by permission of Bloomsbury Press (USA). All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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