***WINNER, IPPY AWARDS 2019***
"A tour de force." INTERZONE
We don't know exactly when Literature® takes place and we don't know exactly where. All we know is that Philip Marlowe would fit right in. We don't get Marlowe though. We get Billy Stringer. And Billy is on nobody's trail.
He's the prey.
The day hasn't begun very well for Billy. He just messed up his first big assignment, he's definitely going to be late for work, his girlfriend won't get back to him and, for reasons she has something to do with, he's dressed like a clown.
Also, he's pretty sure someone is going to kill him today. But then, that's an occupational hazard, when you're a terrorist. He's a bookworm too, which wouldn't be a problem–or particularly interesting–except that in Billy's world, fiction is banned. Reading it is what makes him an outlaw.
Why? Because people need to get to work.
It's fight or flight time for Billy and he's made his choice. But he has to see Jane, even if it's for the last time–to explain it all to her, before she finds out what he has become. That means staying alive for a little while.
And the odds are against him...
"One of the cleverest stories I've read this year. It's whip-smart, well-paced, deeply satirical and dappled with just enough dark and light to keep the reader riveted." Anne Cunningham (Irish Independent, Independent on Sunday, Sunday Times UK)
A wonderfully-written novella charting the course of a single chaotic day in the life of the protagonist – Billy Stringer – in a strange, noirish world where fiction novels have been outlawed.
The intricate story unfolds quickly; and, as Stringer swiftly succumbs to the sauce, a sudden – and fairly unexpected – love story rapidly bubbles to the surface.
Literature is a beautifully-rendered story, mixing the cynicism and moral ambiguity of classic noir fiction with startling flashes of humour and some disarmingly tender moments.
A thoroughly recommended debut.
WINNER of the 2019 IPPY Award for Best eBook in the Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror category.
"A smart satire, crammed with compelling ideas, and it confronts the corrosive influence of philistinism head-on."
"A witty celebration of the transformative power of fiction and a tour de force of laconic pastiche."
"The story belts along with astonishing energy. There are some impressive touches: for example, Billy’s dialogue sounds overly arch at first, but it soon becomes clear his speech is a symptom of his burgeoning engagement with the world of storytelling. There are arresting visual set pieces, such as the vast spaces of the Gripping Tails® factory, and some thoroughly absorbing ideas, such as text-driven vehicles. And there are genuine surprises as the narrative unfolds, some of which force significant revisions of the readers understanding of plot and character."
What a fascinating book. What a strange and mad thing to have birthed into the world. “Literature” is a book about being intoxicated by language. Billy Stringer, our hero, is often intoxicated by whiskey too: this is a hardboiled, hat-wearing world: a neon neo-noir where people are fuelled on a diet of eggs and coffee and nobody sleeps. But words are his drug of choice, his secret obsession. Sadly for him he lives in a philistine age where literature has been re-purposed as fuel. It is the dream of every conservative politician: finally a practical use for the arts! Here “the road is the page” and the motorist’s brain fizzing on fiction (it has to be fiction – it just doesn’t work with a sporting memoir) powers the car.
This is great news – the world of “The Second Enlightenment” can finally manage and rationalise these dangerous and seditious objects, these books. And when you’re up against the literary terrorist cell “Gilgamesh” that can only be a good thing. After all suppressing ideas never works, but finding a way to use books for the betterment of society – by getting people to work – robs Gilgamesh of their power. What’s so great about literature if it’s everywhere, fuelling your school run? It is simultaneously elevated and debased.
This book is a sustained howl of outrage at our dumbed-down society. Stitch sees a world where the best-selling books are memoirs by 15 years old You-tube influencers, where emojis and text-speak proliferate like germs at a sewage outlet, treading water with their mouths open. This is satire in a grand tradition: Fahrenheit 451 but with better jokes.
Stitch’s world is reversed engineered out of a dazzling armoury of tooth-rattling puns – a vehicle that resembles a steel armadillo is known as a “Car-A-Pace” and follows the tale with its tail. Stitch can throw in these puns and get away with them too, because his tone is so deadpan and pedantic: he builds a fully functioning world about these little linguistic ruptures: he means it, man. And of course he doesn’t mean it at all.
In the novel Billy’s gateway drug is Harry Harrison’s “The Stainless Steel Rat”: James Bolivar diGriz is a fast talking, cigar chomping wise guy super-thief. Our Billy is somewhat less glamorous than his literary hero: badly dressed, recently dumped and living with his drunken mother. What’s worse he is now being followed all over town by the gigantic and cheerfully malevolent Alphonse, who has a big knife and a yen to use it. Never get involved with literature – that stuff can kill you!
This is a beautifully realised book and Stitch a clever and precise writer; there is restraint and coolness here, at odds with the subject matter. And there is love here, a genuine love for the magic and mystery of the imagination. As for Billy’s ultimate fate, well that’s about love too: there is an inversion of Rilke’s dictum that “Beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror”. His terror behind him Billy is about to become the beautiful.
This is an excellent book. Read it. While they still let you.
I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of 'Literature' and can happily report that it is a brilliantly entertaining and extremely well-written novella.
'Literature' takes place in a world in which fiction has been outlawed and reading has become an act of terrorism. Here books are carefully, ominously, controlled and repurposed as infrastructure to keep motorways moving, and all other literature is pushed deep underground.
Taking place over the course of a single, action packed day in the life of its protagonist, Billy Stringer, the narrative zips along at a thrilling pace. Appropriately named, Stringer is a sports correspondent for a newspaper who is recruited to join the production line churning out acceptable literature for the roads. This offer sets in motion a frenzy of activity for Stringer who has to sweat and squirm his way through the menacing recruitment process while trying to dispose of some compromising material of his own. As well as zipping forward in plot, the narrative also takes us back to happier times, as the trope of an absent girlfriend is turned into a rather touching love story.
A clever interweaving of speculative fiction, dystopian visions, and classic noir, what’s most striking about Literature is the quality of the writing. The prose is lean and spare with moments of beauty fizzing through showing just enough of the ‘literary bent’ so dangerous to our hero. It is also very funny.
Thoroughly, thoroughly recommended, especially for those of us who like to read on our commutes.
"A satisfying blend of literary inspection, social commentary, dystopian world analysis and individual dilemmas to keep readers guessing and thinking to the end of Billy's perplexing, fast-paced day. The satire involved is so delicate that initial references might slip by readers at first; but as the story progresses, these insights and references become tangible, recognizable parts of a plot that readers will come to anticipate with delight. Highly recommended."
"Brave New World meets 1984 in this Big Brother masterpiece." — Kristi Elizabeth, San Francisco Book Review
"The best new work of speculative fiction I have read since the 20th Century.
Laced with enough scalpel-sharp wit and dark humour that you'll never notice the satire sliding into your awareness until it's too late to feel any real discomfort."
"When a new, strong author like Guillmero Stitch comes on the scene with a excellent debut novella, we get super excited to tell the world about it."
"Amazing. Any agent or publishing house that passed this up made a big mistake. A nomination for our Novel of the Year award. Captivating and timely, with a perfect bittersweet ending."
I'm delighted to share the news that Literature® has won the 2019 INDEPENDENT PUBLISHERS (IPPY) AWARD for Best eBook in the Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror category. Deep thanks to all concerned.