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Young British Slacker

Andrew Osmond

Average Review Rating Average Rating 9/10 (1 Review)
Book Details

Publisher : Minnow Press

Published : 2006

Copyright : Andrew Osmond 2006

ISBN-10 : PB 0-9539448-4-0
ISBN-13 : PB 978-0-9539448-4-2

Publisher's Write-Up

You kneel down and crawl underneath your desk. Wires and plugs entwine like serpents on the floor of a dark electronic jungle, each vying with one another to find its matching socket; phone line; internet connection; printer port. It is dusty on the floor and you find yourself wiping your hands together, instinctively. You know which square of carpet tile is loose and you have the section prized up already, revealing the hard, plastic grill beneath. There are screws at each corner - Philips head - but you have left them loosened from before and you are able to undo them swiftly by hand. The cover comes away silently, revealing a surprisingly large cavity directly below. Without looking back, you ease yourself feet first into the empty space and, pulling the grill in place behind you, disappear into the void.

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Reader Reviews

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Review by Terence (230806) Rating (9/10)

Review by Terence
Rating 9/10
Urban exploration - or reality hacking, as it is sometimes called - is the examination of out-of-bounds areas of the built environment. The activity is largely acknowledged as being started at the University of Toronto, where students discovered a vast network of steam tunnels beneath their campus, all ripe for exploration, and all, of course, forbidden places for trespassers.

The world of urban exploration does not easily make the transition to the literary page. Some novels, like Caldwell and Thomason's The Rule of Four have skirted around the subject, using the cool fashionability of the activity as a quick-entry credibility-ticket into the youth-culture market. Other tales, such as David Morrell's Creepers have masqueraded as urban exploration adventures whilst really being nothing more than spooky building horror stories.
On the face of it, Andrew Osmond's latest novel - Young British Slacker - would seem to sit more comfortably in the swivel-chair realm of bored-office-workers than in the high adrenalin orbit of subterranean exploration, but that would be to overlook the subtlety of the work.

Numbed by the tedium of a career going nowhere, Osmond's nameless protagonist - the story is unusually recounted in the second person and the gender of the main character is never specified - finds escape from the 9 to 5 existence in a most unexpected fashion: by discovering a mysterious grating beneath the carpet tiles underneath their desk, leading to… a great, unexplored network of tunnels and passageways which interweave and interconnect in the spaces between the floors of the office tower block. The gradual exploration of these hidden spaces provides unexpected pleasures, but also unforeseen dangers.

The story is told in an edgy style, interspersed with humorous asides and painfully acute moments of paranoia akin to Chuck Palahniuk, which will have the reader wincing in pained recognition.

Initially, I had doubted that the second person narrative could be successfully sustained over the whole length of a novel, and there are occasional moments where the device seems rather awkward, but it cannot be denied that it brings an immediacy and intimacy to the writing which may not have been possible if the book had been written in a different style. The writing contains many elegant office metaphors and much inventive prose, plus a compelling, if slightly surreal, story which leaves you slightly unsure whether the book is intended to be read as pure allegory, or as actual fact.

There is already talk of a related film-venture. When is there not? But does urban exploration actually want to be recognised by the mainstream? As Osmond's protagonist says:

“The idea of marginalia was a powerful one, though. Amidst all your nocturnal soul-searching, you found that you kept on returning to the idea of the edge. This was an arena where you could truly feel a spiritual closeness with 'Salamander' and 'Troglodyte' and even the slightly inarticulate 'Sewer-boy'. Here there was subversion.
Here there was sedition. It was a place to which society had pushed you, but it was the only place where you felt like you really belonged. The edge. Buy the T-shirt. Join the club.”

A sure-fire cult hit for 2006.
Terence (23rd August 2006)

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