The Folded Man by Matt Hill
Matt Hill's debut novel – a dystopian satire in the sharp, graphic style of transgressive fiction, with a central character who thinks he's a mermaid – is nothing if not eccentric. But Hill, who uses recent political and societal unease to paint a serious, bleak picture of Britain's future, is aiming for more than mere eccentricity.
It's 2018. Britain, war-torn, is in a state of collapse: nationalism has swept the country, bringing about all kinds of Orwellian – and often racist – social strictures. We make sense of this nightmarish state of affairs through protagonist Brian Meredith. Depressive and wheelchair-bound due to a congenital condition that left his legs fused (hence the mermaid self-mythologising), Brian leads a depraved life of drug abuse and sexual deviance. He may not be your ordinary hero, but then – as Hill is at pains to point out – this isn't your ordinary novel.
Hill occasionally lets the bizarreness and depravity run away with itself, but The Folded Man, with its well realised fictional world and its oddly captivating, all too human protagonist, is a very promising debut indeed. [Kristian Doyle]