Love and Other Near-Death Experiences by Mil Millington
I rather like the premise of this book. It’s not the big things in life that you should worry the most about. The big things, you can generally see those coming and can make a rational decision about them. No, it’s the little ones. The little ones matter the most, because you never know which of them is actually going to work out to change your life.
Rob bought some towels. They were cheap, bad towels. And he only bought them because a bunch of guys got in line at the hotdog stand just moments before he got there. If he hadn’t bought the towels, his girlfriend wouldn’t have made him return them, and if he hadn’t had to return them, then he’d have died in a horrible accident. It was this one incident which sent Rob slightly off the edge; he’s about to get married but can no longer make simple decisions.
Chapter six, in its entirety:
The next day Jo [his girlfriend] came into the bathroom while I was standing there about to have a shower. Or about to have a bath. I’d been standing there for a little over an hour and a quarter.
Rob is a late-night jazz radio host, until one day he just loses it; he starts talking about the accident that nearly was, and all the emotions that are locked up with that. After nearly firing him, his producer decides to let him do a call-in show, rather than jazz. It leads to him meeting a bunch of other people who only escaped death through some inconsequential action, and the reveal of a grand conspiracy to kill off those who do survive. Rob goes on the run to figure out who’s behind it, along with a suicidal English teacher and a gung-ho American soldier.
The plot works, but it’s the style that I like the most about this book. It’s written almost conversationally; not every book that I’ve read has been able to pull that off very well, but this is one of them. At times, it feels like Rob and I are sitting in a bar and he’s telling me about the weirdest thing that ever happened to him.
It’s also peppered with great lines. Some examples.
“Please don’t bugger me,” I said…We were both a little stymied. I’d asked not to be sodomized, and he’d agreed to that request…it was no longer clear whether it was the done thing to move right on to his savagely murdering me, or whether we ought to have a chat about what we’d each last seen at the cinema first.
I wasn’t so hot for the ending. It came as somewhat of a disappointment to me, given the set-up. It felt almost like the author reached the 2/3 mark and suddenly wasn’t sure quite how to wrap things up. The ending felt slapped on and contrived. The very end was good (the last five pages), but the resolution to the conflict wasn’t.
Nonetheless, if only for the humor in it and the fact that if you start reading it in the evening, you’ll not get to bed until three in the morning because you want to read just one more chapter, I recommend it.