Review published on September 3, 2017.
24-year-old debut novelist Jonathon Lyon has produced this most curious book that centres on Leander, someone who is a most unlikeable character. One that I might add is very complex, somewhat mixed up and disarmingly well read and arrogant about his abilities. He is a master manipulator. He creates stories and fantasies to get people to respond to and to reveal secrets that can allow him to find out even more about their psychology to him.
For all this he dwells and moves around the most manipulative, self-obsessed people. A drug user himself, he almost is attracted to those with vulnerabilities and back stories that can be toyed with. He finds their raw spots, their fears, their triggers be it possession, jealousy or cruelty. From this he can bend them to his will, although in reality he creates a form of exploited instability and chaos.
He lives with Dawn, also a heroin user. She is unpredictable and will steal and lie about it – but Leander refers to her as mother, as she attempts to find them a proper place to live. Herein he undergoes a level of betrayal and meets an array of individuals, some who want to hurt him, others that know they are being used by him, but are unable to resist him nonetheless. Fuelled with sex, violence, drugs and crime, this book soon revels itself as the crime story it ultimately is.
The writing is extremely intelligent, immersed in heavily descriptive metaphors to convey the synaesthesia Leandra experiences, where he sees colours and tastes flavours in relation to his other senses. It is utterly weird and immensely brutal, yet it hooks you in at the same time – probably because the story is told almost as a psychedelic drug hazed account, where you try and follow the shenanigans and strange emerging storylines, never knowing where it might be taking you.
Some of it was believable, some of it was not. I struggled in particular with the responses Leander evoked from a murderous criminal leader. Leander is clearly a very flawed character, but too arrogant to face and accept this. From a theory that Leander performs to defeat his own loneliness, endured physical pain and vulnerability, to Leander being the main voice in this story and therefore thoroughly unreliable through his drugged deranged, fractured realities, you could debate and deconstruct this book and write a dissertation on it.
It is one of those original books you just have to read to gauge. It won’t be for everyone, it is very graphic both in terms of sexual content and violence. But the writing and the layering of this is exceptional and could be heavily debated in a book club if readers are comfortable with its explicit content. I enjoyed it despite the on-going perplexity associated with an exhaustingly frustrating, cavalier character. And with due credit, it definitely has an after burn.
Sara Garland 4/5
Carnivore by Jonathon Lyon
HQ 9780008232573 hbk Aug 2017