by James Ashton
Genre: Literary Fiction
Print Length: 170 pages
Reviewed by Timothy Thomas
A circular novella that oscillates between radicalism and mundanity in the face of an increasingly broken society
What would it take to bring about the near collapse of society, and potential destruction of the world?
Readers beware! Author James Ashton’s answer to this question t is not some over-the-top, grand plot wrapped up in conspiracy to take out heads of state to seize power oneself. Nor is it an undercover spy thriller with an agent who moves behind the scenes undetected, dismantling regimes of power and laying their secrets bare.
No. All it takes are two very ordinary (well, one a little unhinged) people who work at a bog roll/toilet paper company and are tired of dealing with crap.
Meet Steve, our guide into the madness. Steve is a middle-aged man who works at a bog roll company, a job he does not care for and which does not challenge him, but which he accepts as his lot in life. He is mostly placated by Caroline, a coworker who he sits across from that shares his same wit and interests, but Steve’s feelings for her go unnoticed and he is too afraid to tell her how he feels.
Steve has been offered a promotion, and Caroline has announced she will be leaving the company and moving to the States. Steve’s world is slowly collapsing, it seems, and Dave is feeding off the collapse.
Dave is Steve’s best friend. Dave also works at the bog roll company, but as a janitor rather than a salesman. He believes that their purpose together is to change the world. To Dave, Caroline is a distraction and their jobs are pointless. They are tasked with radical disruption, and Steve has the hacking skills to do just that. Dave is pedal to the floor; Steve is a tandem ride in the park. As Steve’s world begins to fall apart, Dave is just the right person to leverage his anger into action.
Movement is brilliant in its banality. It is a quick read, yet takes its time in its buildup to the conclusion. It is a day to day, journal style story witnessed through Steve’s eyes as he is forced to make decisions for his own personal life—decisions that will affect plenty of people beyond he and Dave’s flat.
Steve is us, but Dave is our radicalism. A bit mad, he often rants about corruption, politics, and how screwed up everything is. He wants to tear it all down and start over, a sentiment many can connect with. James Ashton writes these characters as two halves of the modern dilemma: one that simultaneously acknowledges the messes in the world and just wants to go home, sit down, and watch tv; the other that is enraged by our systems and societies and wants to see it all in flames. It is striking how connected one may feel to both of these characters.
This book is enjoyable and, yes, even hopeful. The characters are amusing, the plot uniquely ordinary, and the risks very real. It is an imaginative novella that may just teach the reader something about themselves in the process.
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