Jack Womack: Elvissy

Jack Womack
Harper-Collins paperback edition, 319 pages
First published 1993

I will break with my usual habit and start this review with a plot summary. Its the year 2033 and the population of New York is joining the C of E in a big way. The C of E - the Church of Elvis of course. But the Elvii are splintering into sects such as the Hosts of Memphis and the Shaken, Rattled and Rolled. Global corporation Dryco send their operative back to 1954 to bring Elvis back to his adoring millions. But the 1954 she finds is a little different with 80 lane highways, mysterious flying saucers and an Elvis that never recorded and who has just killed his ma...

The above is essentially the contents of the back cover, but it is a fairly accurate synopsis of the plot. At this stage you might well think that a Josh Kirby cover is in order and that this might be a nice light read for the beach. Of course, you have probably already worked out that this is not the case. There is humour in this novel but its all of the black variety. Elvissy is a very intense personal and political drama set in a rather nasty future. It is in fact a rather extreme example of why I do not consider a plot summary a very useful review device.

As for the merits of the book - its not the easiest of reads. Womack has devised an English variant to represent the language of forty years hence. It is easy enough to understand, but the translation process that is required disrupts the flow somewhat. I'm not sure if it is because of, or despite this that the writing is both descriptive and very powerful. On a paragraph by paragraph basis, this is a superb book with great characters and detailed wild images. Taken in larger chunks it does not hang together quite so well. Perhaps its the language, or deficiencies in plot structure or maybe its just the amount of energy that you have to expend to read it.

This is a book for long dark winter nights when you can give it your total concentration. Its well worth the effort. One thought however, this book is part of a loosely knit series. The stories are not dependent on one another, but the first one (Ambient) may help set some of the background. Of course I cannot confirm that because I have not yet read it yet, but based on the quality of Elvissy, I am definitely going to read this and Womack's other works in the near future.

Overall rating: A long walk on a beach on a cold fine winter morning.