At the start of Warner's fifth novel, Manollo Follana - male, middle-aged and Spanish - is told by his friend and doctor that he is HIV positive. According to the cover blurb, this "is only the beginning." This is, unfortunately, all too true. Very little of interest or consequence seems to follow from this news. Manollo does not seem devastated. Instead, he drifts around and Thinks About His Life. The bulk of the novel is composed of absurd vignettes (some intended to be erotic) interspersed with trite observations about how life is not like American movies and how awful it is to be able to kill someone by making love to them. The novel ends with a twist and action sequence, neither of which convince. Warner has, to his credit, gone some way towards tackling the issue of having a non-English-speaking narrator tell his story in English. He directly translates the kinds of phrases favoured in Spanish ('portable computer' rather than 'laptop'; 'Moor' rather than 'Arab'). However, the technique is often marred by strange pronouncements ("Or am I just too good for this world in all its rawness which we have ruined?") that seldom ring true. Despite the sympathetic nature of the book's premise, Manollo is neither likeable nor interesting and readers will find it difficult to care. [Nick Holdstock]
Published by Jonathan Cape. Out Now. Cover Price Ã‚Â£11.99.