Life Knocks – Craig Stone
Life Knocks belongs to a very specific genre. It’s the same sort of writing as The Peep Show, The Inbetweeners and The Office, which is to say British urban/suburban men consuming a lot of alcohol to cope with their awkward social skills and their dreary and failing lives. The narrator, inexplicably named Colossus Sosloss, is living in a studio flat, rented from a bigoted Pakistani pensioner with no sense of privacy, and spends most of his time either wallowing in self-pity or failing to have sex, or more often, both.
To be honest, my biggest issue with the book is that it was in blatant need of a good proof-reader. There was no consistency with the capitalisation of brand names (either internal, as Facebook was both capitalised and un-capitalised in two separate instances, or according to trademark specifications, with iPod spelt without the camel case), on a number of occasions the word “confidant” was used rather than “confident”, as well as several other typos scattered throughout the text (including a reference to the actor Pierce Bronson). There were a few passages that just didn’t make sense. At one point, the narrator makes a reference to a past event, which then appears to happen several pages letter, which was more than a little confusing.
The book was also substantially longer than it needed to be. I read it on my Kindle, but Amazon informs me that it was 597 pages long, and it definitely felt it, there just wasn’t enough plot to sustain it, and it gets repetitive. At one point we’re treated to a rather amusing incident where Colossus and his girlfriend get lost on a hike in the Hawaiian mountains, the point being that it’s a symbol of their relationship’s (and colossus himself) lack of ability to plan ahead, but then several chapters later, we get an almost identical scene where they spend hours trying swimming across the open ocean between two South-East Asian islands. This would also be amusing, but I got the message the frist time, so it just felt superfluous.
The book’s saving grace was the ‘Past’ narrative. Interspersed throughout the story was flashback to a time when Colossus wasn’t quite so much of a state as he is in the ‘Present’. He is still prone to recreational substance abuse, but with a more positive outlook on life, and a long-term girlfriend, he is at least tolerant to read about. The decline and collapse of the relationship is almost touching, though it is hampered somewhat by the fact you just want to shout at him for being an idiot.
“What the book really needed was a good editor” is an accusation thrown at popular books (generally in the sci-fi/fantasy genre, against books it’s cool to rail against) but I generally find that it usually means “I couldn’t be bothered to sit through a good story”, but I think in the case of Life Knocks, the statement does ring true. While I’m not sure that with some tuning up I would enjoy the book much more, but without the errors early on I might be less inclined to find faults with the rest of it.