Reviews

The Crash of Hennington by Patrick Ness

Sarah Tan

For a novel that reads like a satirical modern day soap opera veering on the edge of science fiction, The Crash of Hennington is in a genre of its own.


The Crash of Hennington

Publisher: HarperCollins Canada
Length: 487
Price: $24.95 (US)
Author: Patrick Ness
UK publication date: 2003-02
Amazon
I believe six impossible things before breakfast.
— Lewis Carroll

There is no year stated. Cora Larsson is stepping down as mayor of Hennington to spend more time with her husband, Albert, who had just finished having sex with a man in a bush when she met him for the first time on a nudist beach. As she plans her resignation, a dejected admirer is making his way to the city in an effort to seek revenge for his broken heart, and by doing so, brings a whole lot of trouble with him. As the front cover of the novel reads: Welcome to Hennington. Mind the Rhinos.

The Crash of Hennington tells the story of fourteen characters, all furiously intertwined, who are trying to work towards 'the good life'. These people try all sorts of things to give meaning to life -- sex, drugs, politics, money, pimping, prostitution, religion. The combinations and deviations of all these facets give Patrick Ness' Hennington a surreal feeling to it. Situated between our world and another, where Bondulay replaces Christianity, people are categorized as Rumour and non-Rumour, and the fall of Pistolet a major mark in history, what Hennington is not is your average city in Kentucky.

Coming up with a way to describe The Crash of Hennington is a rather tricky affair. One way could be to label it Messianic, as the plot moves along the lines of Armageddon, resurrection, and restoration. Patrick Ness serves us the equivalent of fire and brimstone in the city of Hennington, with a herd of wild rhinoceros thrown into the equation for good measure. In his book, he follows the traditional rules of cause and effect with the evil dying brutal deaths while the honourable remain martyrs for love. Those in favour of such themes may find Ness' book apocalyptic.

Another message that emanates from the book would be that of the ideas of fate and destiny. The Crash of Hennington seems to preach that the whole world will conspire to help you fulfil your life purpose whether you like it or not. This destiny may not be known to you, and could involve pain, and in some cases, death, but when a person is at the place he or she was meant to be, something special happens . . . well, at least in Hennington it does. The dead give off buzzing sounds, strangers appear like angels to care for you, and the world stops to allow you to speak.

However, it would be safer to say that The Crash of Hennington is more likely a story about the emptiness of power without love. It sounds cliché, and though there have been many bad books attempting to explore the same theme, Ness triumphs by playing both hands. On one side, he shows the result of power with love, and the other, power without. All sides are written with extremely original overtones, which really does put things in different perspectives.

With fourteen characters running different stories that overlap with each other, The Crash of Hennington could have been a messy novel. Not only do such stories run into problems of clarity, they also face the difficulty of being cohesive. Ness avoids this by using the chapter as a tool to separate each story, and thereby, making it able for him to give award character with their own distinctive voice. But it is the different kinds of love that exist between people that brings The Crash of Hennington together, both literally and figuratively. The notions of romantic and familial love are universal, and it is through this that Ness shows how people's emotions are really causes for action. The truth that there exist differences in preference and degree does not eliminate the fact that actions result in reactions -- anger, guilt, jealousy, responsibility, admiration, desire. All these are active elements that contribute to a specific ending.

For a novel that reads like a satirical modern day soap opera veering on the edge of science fiction, The Crash of Hennington is in a genre of its own. The book is filled with plots that are too bizarre to be believable, and yet, the situations that occur have a smidgen of reality in them. It is this mix of 'real' and 'unreal' that results in the reader's inability to put the book down while rolling her eyes and laughing at the sheer weirdness of it all.

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Music

The World of Captain Beefheart: An Interview with Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx

Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx (photo © Michael DelSol courtesy of Howlin' Wuelf Media)

Guitarist and band leader Gary Lucas and veteran vocalist Nona Hendryx pay tribute to one of rock's originals in this interview with PopMatters.

From the opening bars of "Suction Prints", we knew we had entered The World of Captain Beefheart and that was exactly where we wanted to be. There it was, that unmistakable fast 'n bulbous sound, the sudden shifts of meter and tempo, the slithery and stinging slide guitar in tandem with propulsive bass, the polyrhythmic drumming giving the music a swing unlike any other rock band.

Keep reading... Show less

From Haircut 100 to his own modern pop stylings, Nick Heyward is loving this new phase of his career, experimenting with genre with the giddy glee of a true pop music nerd.

In 1982, Nick Heyward was a major star in the UK.

As the leader of pop sensations Haircut 100, he found himself loved by every teenage girl in the land. It's easy to see why, as Haircut 100 were a group of chaps so wholesome, they could have stepped from the pages of Lisa Simpson's "Non-Threatening Boys" magazine. They resembled a Benetton knitwear advert and played a type of quirky, pop-funk that propelled them into every transistor radio in Great Britain.

Keep reading... Show less

Acid house legends 808 State bring a psychedelic vibe to Berlin producer NHOAH's stunning track "Abstellgleis".

Berlin producer NHOAH's "Abstellgleis" is a lean and slinky song from his album West-Berlin in which he reduced his working instruments down to a modular synthesizer system with a few controllers and a computer. "Abstellgleis" works primarily with circular patterns that establish a trancey mood and gently grow and expand as the piece proceeds. It creates a great deal of movement and energy.

Keep reading... Show less

Beechwood offers up a breezy slice of sweet pop in "Heroin Honey" from the upcoming album Songs From the Land of Nod.

At just under two minutes, Beechwood's "Heroin Honey" is a breezy slice of sweet pop that recalls the best moments of the Zombies and Beach Boys, adding elements of garage and light tinges of the psychedelic. The song is one of 10 (11 if you count a bonus CD cut) tracks on the group's upcoming album Songs From the Land of Nod out 26 January via Alive Natural Sound Records.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image