I am so utterly unhip that I wasn’t familiar with the original, but I am now a diehard fan: late to the party, I’m glad to have made it at all ...There are not a lot of good, lucky and nice people in the book ... The stories deliberately blend into one another – themes, characters and motifs recur, and are set in a place called Endland, which both is and is not England, a post-apocalyptic England, ruined, war-damaged, pathetic, sad and self-destructed ... What happens next is never good: the gods are powerless; there are no happy endings ... This could all be incredibly turgid, like subjecting yourself to some dreadful art installation, but it’s not. The stories are nastily funny – sick jokes – and Etchells is a latter-day Menippean satirist. The biggest influence on his early stories, he notes in an afterword, was Mark E Smith of the band the Fall, whose lyrics were glorious, ferocious rages ... The book is horrible, brilliant, deliberately provoking. At times I wished it was over; now I wish it had never stopped.
Endland is a merciless parade through a world molded by the violent looming of Brexit Britain, Google's all-seeing Big Brother eye and the political bloodshed of Thatcher's rule. Brutality and dark comedy is the beating heart of these stories; stories that are like acid trip fables gone oh so wrong ... Etchells is a master of language, viciously marrying online slang with the once-upon-a-time that every reader is familiar with. His clarity of meaning strikes the reader hard, with a barbarity and reality that stuns like the shock of diving headlong into frozen waters. It’s a pleasure and a revelation: it forces the reader to re-examine what language is capable of ...This is a distraughtly passionate kaleidoscope of a book, as soul-searching as it is a lacerated mannequin of a man. Pick it up though; it’s a savage and comical read, best enjoyed in stages.
A squalidly funny collection of short stories set in the ruined fairground of Brexit Britain, these 'postcards from hell' present parochial filth as mock epic ... neither misery porn nor social realism. Etchells’s depravity may smell like Johnny Rotten but his linguistic flair comes from Joyce and Burgess. And like his highbrow forebears, Etchells is highly resourceful when it comes to remolding the language to fit his darker purpose ... Etchells’s assault on linguistic decorum has a liberating rather than destructive effect. Plasticity of notation entails plasticity of meaning, and many of his aberrations are revealing ... Its florid colloquialisms and anarchic narrative forms serve to shed light on other neglected spaces — the lives of Britain’s forgotten working class. Etchells’s surreal humor offers new entry points to new modes of empathy for a demographic that’s much discussed, much maligned, but little understood ... The gaps in his surreal fables are the dark interstices in which new sympathies may fester. Not everything works — not every experiment can — and some of the stories feel repetitive. But there’s sufficient fizz and scum on every page to keep those who are game at the table.
Tim Etchells’s characters navigate a hostile environment that remains remarkably unchanged – uniformly bleak – from first to last. This is a society that is haunted by its past ... Everything, including language, has been taken over by corporations: formulaic expressions are thus always accompanied by the copyright symbol. One character even dreams that somebody is trying 'to bar-code scan his eyes'. I would not put it past them ... All manner of horrors may be going on in the background...but this never prevents the author’s imagination from running riot ... The orality of these morality tales is absolutely thrilling: the conversational tone...the textspeak-style abbreviations and liberal use of expletives; the poetic malapropisms...and frequent phonetic spelling conjure up a dialect that seems to be in the process of becoming – one that is close to the 'morning of language' to quote Anne Carson. Our dystopian times are estranged through the childlike innocence of this narrative voice – with its flashes of tender whimsy that recall Richard Brautigan – as though the chronicles of Endland were being told by the BFG.
Endland is a place of grotty estates, exploitative jobs and crap pubs. But these urban fables are a world away from dour realism: dragons and ogres feature alongside alcoholics and sex workers. Etchells makes sparks fly by allowing the mythic to rub against grubby everyday existence: there are disruptions to the space-time continuum in Doncaster; Greek gods with names such as Herpes, Apollo 12 and Stormzy drink too much and get caught up in the migrant crisis. This is scorching, bitter satire of how society is continually screwed by inequality ... It’s a cracklingly original voice, and the stories are very funny ... Taken as a whole, however, the collection can seem a little one-note ... at more than 370 pages, the tone soon begins to grate, and I started to feel niggles of discomfort at his continually mining working-class voices or cliches for comedy. A slim volume of selected highlights would have sufficed; this includes chapters you suspect were more fun to write than for anyone to read ... Jarvis Cocker perhaps puts it best in the introduction: 'I respect this book – but I never want to read it again.'
This collection by British multimedia artist and writer Etchells...may be about, as the author notes on the first page, 'Kings, lords, liars, goal-hangers, killers, psychics and prostitutes,' but it’s also a politically charged and graphic portrait of Western societies hanging on by a thread ... There are nontraditional morality tales about a fallen starlet, a transient pop star, and a woman disintegrating into the ether of cyberspace. Stories in the collection’s back half are less graphic but turn a black mirror to the movies ... They aren’t easy to digest, these lurid tales of poverty, parricide, ghosts, and untimely deaths, but they do pose some hard questions about the world outside our windows ... A surprisingly incisive rendering of a shattered society—or, just another world gone wrong.