Saturday 10 January 2009

Print Media 2001

Destroy All Monsters
316pp, illustrated, published by Marion Boyars.
Available from Amazon.

‘Ken Hollings’ Destroy All Monsters is a hallucinogenic spiral into future nightmare. The bastard son of Harlan Ellison, Orwell and Otomo’s Akira, it explodes with paranoia, desperation and the search for what little might be left of the human psyche after the soul has been sucked dry by technology, surveillance and hyper-violence. As visual as a graphic novel, the visions detonate the base of the brain pan, forcing the reader to fear not only the present, but the doom inducing possibilities that the immediate future will no doubt bring, as the evil of stealth technology becomes part and parcel of our day to day existence. Frightful, gruesome, much too real.’
Lydia Lunch

‘In the dusty aftermath of September 11th, writers have shown themselves to be some of the worst victims of taking-it-all-too-personally syndrome. Ken Hollings, as a rarity among them, would have a genuine right to say he saw it - or some of it - coming. Published the very week of the ‘attacks on America, Destroy All Monsters
is genuinely, spookily prescient. As a novel, it is haunted by a host of literary ghosts – Gibson, Burroughs, Delillo, Ballard; as a progress report on Planet Earth, it seems to have timeslipped onto the front pages.The world has acquired quite a few new monsters, recently - and at least some of the world is set on destroying them all.
In many ways,
Destroy All Monsters
is a conservative, synoptic novel. A great many ‘cult’ signifiers are present and correct: Gojira movies, serial killers, Elvis Presley (in reanimated form), the President of the USA.
Yet here they are run through – one on top of the other, one becoming the other – with incredible confidence and speed: we bat around the planet, each section rarely longer than two pages – we are in Burger King in Washington, a Tokyo night-club, a theatre in Memphis, in something approximating to cyberspace. Occasionally we are bemused, but most of the time we know only too well where we are and what’s going on there.
The writing style is clean and clear. Clip after clip of 80s/90s riffs are shot off: ‘The Chanel bag was already sending out all the right signals: disposable income coupled with an uncompromising flair for the obvious.’
We read with techno-nostalgia, once again together in electric dreams: ‘A jet fighter takes off from the rolling deck of an American aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf. The pilot’s face is hidden beneath a dark visor that reflects nothing but the glowing instrument panel in front of him. Lights flash, reading out the contours of enemy air space, as the plane skims low over the pollution-crowded sea...’
The novel opens, ‘It is Day 500 of Operation Desert Storm, and everything is going according to plan.’
Hollings’ thesis, explicit throughout, is that the 21st century started here: the smart bombs wised us up. ‘Desert Storm gave shape and impetus to a whole new decade.’Much of the writing feels, now, this week, historical. ‘The military were first attracted to the aesthetics of destruction without casualties as a result of watching old monster movies... Whole city blocks were demolished by no one ever died in them. Urban space itself was so carefully vectored and controlled in these films that it was possible to buy a newspaper in one part of Tokyo and read front-page accounts of the terrible destruction being wrought by giant reptiles in another without giving it a second thought.’ But Godzilla has left the building; Godzilla will not be welcome back.The monsters of the title provide the engine of the plot. On Earthquake Island a man known to us only as The Scientist has been keeping Micronosaur (the Molecule Monster), Eiga (the Dream Monster), Manta (the Giant Reptile Wing) and Gravaton (the Deep Monster) under control. But The President wants to harness their powers, to turn them into something useful, to use them militarily...‘The balance of terror. That just about summed the whole thing up. Time to move on, he thought. Just like it was the fifties all over again.’ Back to the future, indeed.’

Toby Litt

For more reviews of Destroy All Monsters, click here.

‘You Will Not Be Friendly: In the End Zone with Cabaret Voltaire from Crackdown to Code’
The forgotten future of Industrial Dance, uncensored video releases, electronic voices and The Haçienda resurgans, published in The Wire.

‘Even Their Cloud-Piercing Towers of Glass and Porcelain and Adamantine Steel…’
Echoes of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis in mass culture and pop technology from Taylorism to the last days of the Robot Disco, published in The Wire.

‘Go to Commercial’
Music in advertising from John Cage and Raymond Scott to Michael Jackson and Pepsi, published in The Wire.

‘Repetition Has A Great Annoyance Factor’
Sleeve notes for Cabaret Voltaire, The Original Sound of Sheffield ‘83-’87, Virgin CD release CD/CV5

‘Only Connect’
A specially commissioned series of conspiracy maps, linking together a sequence of thirty names to a particular historical incident, that appeared in Bizarre magazine throughout 2001.
Only Connect #1 The Kennedy Assassination
Bizarre 41, January 2001
Only Connect # 2 The Manson Murders
Bizarre 42, February 2001
Only Connect # 3 Watergate
Bizarre 43, March 2001
Only Connect #4 The Illuminati
Bizarre 44, April 2001
Only Connect # 5 The Space Brothers
Bizarre 45, May 2001
Only Connect # 6 God’s Bankers
Bizarre 46, Summer Special 2001
Only Connect #7 The Springfield Connection
Bizarre 47, June 2001

‘Toying With Happiness: An Introduction to Hjalmar Söderberg’s The Serious Game’
Essay by Elena Balzamo, translated from the French by KH and published in the English-language edition of the novel, Marion Boyars, London and New York, 2001.

Countless reviews, short features and columns appeared throughout 2001 in The Wire, Sight and Sound, Manga Max and Bizarre.