I often hear people complaining that there is an identikit trend in publishing these days. Everything is a re-hash of something else. We have the sparkly vampire trend, the miserable childhood trend, the religious conspiracy trend (that Dan Brown has a lot to answer for) - but somehow, amongst all the guff and dribble out there, I managed to come across 'Missio' by Tim Roux. In the interests of lyrical writing, I'd have liked to have said it 'bucks the trend' here - but the truth is, it's simply unique.
I was particularly drawn to it because of the suggestion of whimsy and magic - and I was not dissapointed. Roux creates a gritty grey world - the mean streets of Hull - and then introduces a fantastical layer of wizardry, mediumship and simple old fashioned magic. Don't worry - this is no Harry Potter for grown-ups, but like HP, it will rip you out of the mundane reality of HERE and whisk you into the darkly amusing land of THERE.
I must say that I found the blurb didn't give the best impression of this book. The trawler connection is somewhat incidental - the protaganist (who is written in the first person and so well, that I entirely forgot for about the first two chapters that it wasn't an autobiography) is the last of a tragic trawling dynasty and this is painted realistically and endearingly. However,for me, the parts of the novel that I will remember will most certainly be the astonishing characters that Roux paints - each so vivid, so demanding of your attention, that they leap at you in trompe l'oiel. The Hanging Judge, The Great Macaroni, King Codd, Stevie's mum - each has great poignancy and depth and each stays with you for days after - popping up when you're washing up, or slinking into the back of your mind whilst you're in the bath.
In short, this is a literary work which deserves great accolade. If I was forced at gun-point to make a comparison, I might think of Will Self's 'How the Dead Live', though it is much lighter in both spirit and style. Roux really is a very skilled and articulate writer.
Missio is witty, whimsical, warm, down to earth yet entirely bonkers...all at once. I loved it.