Will Varley’s novella, Sketch Of A Last Day is a love story, set against a backdrop of the last days of capitalism. Varley’s prose follows the last 24 hours of the narrator’s life before he is exterminated by the state. Maybe today he will finally be shaken from his apathy?
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“Sketch of a Last Day is almost unique in that, whilst forcing you to read on through the apathetic misery of the protagonist, you know that there can be no happy ending here. Much like Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, or even Orwell’s 1984, the sheer soul-crushing hopelessness of the narrative, of the stylised prose, is like a noose around your neck, dropping you deeper and deeper into the text, until it draws tight and, suddenly, the narrative is at an end. Though it fits into the format of ‘Novella’, it is impossible to imagine it in any other way. A longer piece would drag, the horror of the world which Varley has created would suck any life out of the reader, and a shorter piece would fail to show of the talent and unique mind of the writer to address a modern-dystopia. For Dystopian fiction is certainly the shelf amongst which this title must be placed.
There are events which, in any other work, would drive the protagonist, (if such a term can even be applied to the main character of this text), insane with grief, with anger or tortured sensibilities, apathy is the only product of the text. This technique continues to the reader with even myself failing to react to even the most horrific of ideas Varley has put forward as fact. It says, in a manner lacking in pretension, that ‘This is how our culture will soon be’ and I cannot find it within myself to react in any way save agreement. The narrative should be shocking, it should leave the reader disgusted but, in fact, it leaves me empty. The imagery he creates, and stylised form of the text, firmly set this novella up as almost lyrical prose, absent in eventual meaning and lacking in joyful resolution. It’s a goddamn masterpiece.”
-John Carey, Lulu.com