Review: Ersatz World by Richard Godwin


Ersatz World
Richard Godwin
Number 13 Press

There’s a reason people refer to Godwin as The Dark Lord. He loves to explore the depth of depravity in the modern world. This novella from our shared publisher Number 13 Press might be a little lighter on gore than some of his more brutal books but it makes up for it with paranoia and sexuality. There’s the blackest of black humour here too, especially in the names like protagonist Samuel Verso (the medieval terminology for the sides of a sheet of parchment are recto and verso).

Verso is a publisher and the nexus of a web of problems. His best selling author has disappeared, his partner demands they move into ebooks, his wife is so far beyond anorexia that she lusts for having her limbs removed — and he suspects that he’s being followed, but by whom?

Everybody has a fetish: for his wife Phyllis it was ‘something inside her that was trying to emerge into day…she could only find when the cutting began’; for his partner Belinda it was the desire to see desire in every person she met; for Samuel it is books. Part of the reason he resists the move to ebooks is not only his growing paranoia about code taking over the world but a genuine desire for the book itself. His lover Maxine feeds this fetish: ‘She read from the novel and Samuel recalled publishing it. He could smell the print rising from her hand as he fondled her breasts.’ As she tells him later, ‘I read to you to turn you into a man.’

But even Maxine cannot save Samuel from his growing fears that somehow Fontana Rate, ‘the ever elusive bestseller who despised commercial fiction’ and the men who are following him — maybe? Is it all a delusion? As he asks at one point, ‘Is this some elaborate plan to make me realise my resistance to e-books is old fashioned?’ Or are the serial killers, government agents and tutu-ed libertines real? There are a lot of twists and turns along the way and you’ll find yourself reading faster and faster to figure out what happens. But you’ll probably guess wrong.

Check out all the 13ers at Number 13 Press — it’s Friday the 13th after all!

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