Something Fishy in The State of England
By Martin Amis
Alfred A. Knopf, $25.95, 255 pages
Lionel Asbo: State of England starts off with a bang and doesn’t let up as the story progresses, becoming increasingly wackier as it goes on. The story follows two characters, the titular Lionel Asbo and his nephew Desmond, and shows the decisions they make as they progress through their lives, from childhood to college, and how those decisions impact each other and those around them.
Each character is very believable and interesting, each with a distinct voice and personality. The reader can even hear the way they talk, thanks to Martin Amis at times spelling out the phonetic pronunciation for characters that speak with a thick dialect (usually Lionel). The major themes play strong roles throughout the book, often dictating the actions of the characters, which allows for multiple reads just to discover what other literary tricks the author presents. However, the plot can get a bit messy and hard to follow, which proves to be a distraction. At about the last quarter of the book this reviewer found it to be a chore to read. However, that does not make it a bad book, since it is definitely worth checking out.
Reviewed by Gregory A. Young