by Robert Llewellyn
An odd little book, strongly inspired by William Morris’s utopian-socialist News from Nowhere, News from Gardenia is the antidote to all those miserable dystopian novels that abound at the moment. It’s a great idea and – after having heard Robert Llewellyn talk about this book on Radio Four, I was really keen to get hold of a copy.
Unfortunately, News from Gardenia doesn’t do justice to the boldness of the idea. The style is too self-conscious in its attempts to amuse. The story is repetitive and so is the dialogue; by the end of the book, Gavin had told us his love was SO beautiful, how he wanted to grab her and hold her SO many times I wanted to set light to him. The plot just doesn’t go anywhere and the idea never convinced, I couldn’t believe in this vision of the future where everything seems to work but no one seems to know how. Most of the narrative is about ideas, geo-politics and views – presumably Robert Llewellyn’s – on the perfect society and the nature of utopia, there really isn’t much plot beyond this discourse. Robert Llewellyn’s voice comes across strongly as Gavin, the man thrown out of time, but – much as I like Robert Llewellyn, the writing is just not good.
News from Gardenia is a great idea. It starts out fairly readable but quickly becomes bogged down in a mire of muddy ideas. It ends up more manifesto than novel and soon becomes dreadfully tedious.
I love Robert Llewellyn, I loved the premise, I desperately wanted to love the book and was sad that I couldn’t.