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In Association with
The Inflatable Volunteer
Steve Aylett
Raw Dog Screaming paperback $13.95
Phoenix House paperback �8.99

review by Tony Lee

This short but strikingly well written novel mixes black comedy and dark fantasy with philosophical wit, and features chapters with such titles as What I Told The Firing Squad, and Trouble With The Devil, that are irresistibly intriguing. It tells us about Eddie, who "knew he was possessed until his teeth were punched out from the inside," and about a man named Empty Fred, a woman named Ruby Thunderhead, and Minotaur Babs - a man-beast out of childhood nightmare.

The narrator presents himself as a slacker character, explaining that the last time he went for a job he had to turn back because "there was a dog in the way." Many scenes are centred on an improbable pub where bizarre sculptures are displayed and 'core creatures' from hell erupt from the walls. There's also a sinister 'underlab' in Eddie's cellar where he grows talking-ape oracles. Despite generating a pervasive feeling that something evil lurks in the background, this book is not so much about a pact with the devil as it is a negotiated settlement after which Satan has to lay off the booze.

When it comes to upholding genre conventions and the traditional rules of storytelling, Steve Aylett clearly prefers the "euphoria of disobedience." At times, he ignores standard grammar, and he's adept at the one-sentence paragraph. There's a lot of waffle here but most of it is funny, and so precise in its intention to amuse that it's quite agreeable waffle, really. On the giving of gifts, Aylett offers "a gilded invitation to sample 'the immortal caviar of God's brain'."

The Inflatable Volunteer is blocked out in passages of creative writing, often stunning the reader's common sense into submission in the very best style of much maligned subgenre, the stream-of-consciousness narrative.

- review of 1999 edition, first published in Starburst #260 (April 2000)

The Inflatable Volunteer by Steve Aylett, 2010

The Inflatable Volunteer by Steve Aylett, 1999

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