The recent lifeless are given a brand new lease on life however are nonetheless mortal. They get up in impolite well being with new tooth and previous traumas – together with the reminiscence of their demise. From there they start the method of ageing and bodily decay as soon as once more. Folks nonetheless age, and get hungry and attractive and depressed, and need to work dead-end jobs to make ends meet.
In demise, as in life, cash is an issue for Angus, particularly after he turns into hooked on an costly black-market service that permits the lifeless to astral-travel again to their former life and hang-out their family members. This enables him to look at on helplessly as Gracie strikes on with life, elevating his baby, falling in love together with his usurper, Owen.
Angus finds himself working as a labourer in “a provincial outpost between two medium-sized cities”, the place assets are scarce and infrastructure creaks with the ever-growing inflow of the lifeless. When a viral apocalypse on Earth begins to kill by the thousands and thousands, it precipitates a refugee disaster within the afterlife.
The extant lifeless resort to more and more draconian measures to stop overpopulation. They suggest banning new arrivals – “sealing the sunshine on the finish of the tunnel” – and deploy slogans drawn instantly from Australia’s border-protection discourse. The newly departed “type ghettos and received’t assimilate”, and threaten the lifestyle loved by the lifeless.
It’s sadly ironic that Australia’s remedy of refugees that Toltz lampooned in his 2008 Booker-listed blockbuster Fraction of the Entire remains to be ripe for satire – however irony runs engine-hot all by way of this guide. Its bold are huge; Dostoevskyian in its survey of social inequity – and satirical to the purpose of compulsion. It owes as a lot to the borscht-belt comedians because the Russian literary giants.
Toltz has a fantastic deal to say, and one thing as trivial as demise received’t cease his characters speaking. Angus, Gracie, and a supporting solid of caricatures converse (to one another, to themselves) in off-the-cuff one-liners.
These vary from Swiftian social critique, “householders … at all times renovating and vigilantly scrutinising rates of interest as thought they have been the temperature of a feverish baby” and Wildean snark, “I imagine the one factor worse than being sexually objectified just isn’t being sexually objectified”, to playful aphorisms, “Sentience is a life sentence”.
The wisecracking doesn’t let up, apart from just a few moments of beautiful unhappiness nestled in among the many chaos, for almost 400 pages. Right here Goes Nothing is shaggy, relentless, however good as hell, and – you probably have a excessive tolerance for schtick – profoundly rewarding.
Steve Toltz is a visitor at Melbourne Writers Pageant. mwf.com.au The Age is a media associate of the competition.
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