Literary Saloon
Site of Review.

Trying to meet all your book preview and review needs.

the Best
the Rest
Review Index


to e-mail us:

In Association with Amazon.com

In association with Amazon.com - UK


the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Inflatable Volunteer

Steve Aylett

general information | our review | links | about the author

To purchase The Inflatable Volunteer

Title: The Inflatable Volunteer
Author: Steve Aylett
Genre: Novel
Written: 1999
Length: 166 pages
Availability: The Inflatable Volunteer - US
The Inflatable Volunteer - UK
The Inflatable Volunteer - Canada
  • Currently only available in Great Britain

- Return to top of the page -

Our Assessment:

B : surreal and often clever

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       Steve Aylett displays a devil-may-care attitude in his fiction, recklessly playing with language, forcing a humour so cutting it leaves his tales in tatters. The devil usually shows up in the stories as well, in one form or another, and in The Inflatable Volunteer it's John Satan himself, the everyman of the netherworld, that makes an appearance. But Aylett's locales, from Beerlight to Bigot Hall are, themselves, the most hellish places imaginable and satanic presences can't make things much worse.

The shunt-thud of a blade to block's the nearest thing you'll get around here to a square shoulder or the nod of a head. Fashion and lawnmowers come out shining and everyone tightens their fists.
       Aylett's narrator fits right in. He is no victim. He's involved, active, criminal. He starts out campaigning for the Mayor (as sordid a business as there is, in Aylett's world or any other), and he winds up in front of a firing squad. And that's not the worst of it. There's the Minotaur, Bob, a devil he has to defend himself to, and a host of characters who don't quite see eye to eye with the narrator. And there's Eddie, the hapless, hopeless friend who is there all along.
       Eddie has odd notions and ideas, get rich quick schemes and fancy dreams. Deluded from first to last, he retains a certain charming quality:
Assailed by creditors and theological doubt, he spent two years cultivating hernias in a hydroponic glasshouse nursery, funneling his guilt and fear into a lifestyle of dissipation and gaudy excess.
       Aylett's book is surreal, but carefully constructed. After a chapter introducing the narrator's friend ("Eddie"), there is a neat symmetry of chapters, one leading to the next. Ten chapter headings run from "What I told Eddie" to "What I told the devil" (with audiences of a priest, a shrink, a firing squad, and "every last bastard at the bar" along the way, among others). Then ten chapter headings run the same route back, from "Trouble with the devil" through "Trouble with Eddie", with all the same stations in between.
       The events recounted pretty much all fall into the category of the bizarre, as Aylett never misses an opportunity to twist even the banal into the grotesque. His relentless style can be demanding, and this won't be everyone's cuppa, but there is fun to be had here. Certainly Aylett's way with language and his manhandling of reason are always a source of entertainment.
       Aylett always tries to overstep the bounds, and it can make the tale a tough thing to follow. Logic is suspended (and hung out to dry). But he has a way with the words, and there are more than enough moments that surprise you. Near sublime, even.
When the giant burnt it left a helterskelter skeleton with fleshrind and eyes here and there -- and it was surprising how soon everyone lost interest.
       Unusual stuff, all of it, and perhaps of limited appeal. But if you're interested in language, in seeing what a writer is willing and able to do -- and if your humour tends towards the perverse (polymorphous or not), Aylett's Inflatable Volunteer is your man.

- Return to top of the page -


The Inflatable Volunteer: Reviews: Steve Aylett: Other books by Steve Aylett under review: Other books of interest under review:

- Return to top of the page -

About the Author:

       British author Steve Aylett was born in 1967. He has written several novels.

- Return to top of the page -

© 1999-2010 the complete review

Main | the New | the Best | the Rest | Review Index | Links