Life on Other Planets

Life on Other Planets

9781912436965
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Confronting the darker forces concealed beneath the trifling disputes and sore spots of life after death, this blackly comic book is storytelling under siege. Hilarious and unsettling by turns, Life on Other Planets unravels the mysteries of a family irreparably divided by alienation, entitlement and loss. When I was fourteen, my family had a nervous breakdown… It is 1997. To himself, Benjamin Carter is a thing drifted somehow out of its orbit. With the news that Great Aunt Pearl is dead, his summer is looking like yet another non-starter. There’s his summons to the clearance of her ramshackle house. His dad’s awkward pep talks. A toxic cocktail of over-zealous aunts and uncles. And then there’s the Church of the Holy Heavens—the space cult that’s been wooing Pearl for all she’s worth. It was supposed to be simple: grieve, junk, funeral, home. But from the side-lines, Ben can see the cracks starting to show. When the search for a will goes off-beam, the Carters find themselves under siege by the property they all crave. Alone in the house together, the Carters’ lives lock into something unrecognisable and their pursuit of Aunt Pearl’s not-quite-worldly goods entirely consumes them. As Ben comes face-to-face with death, a new person emerges: curious, uninhibited, free-falling. In Life on Other Planets, Matt Cook has created a startling portrait of a young man caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it. Comedies of English manners have rarely been darker. ·        Matt Cook‘s fiction has received a stream of critical acclaim since Life on Other Planets was Writing on the Wall’s Pulp Idol runner-up (2016). His uniquely unsettling short story Thresholds was shortlisted for the 2020 Cambridge Short Story Prize, and his other fiction has been featured in a range of journals including The Stockholm Review. ·        This whip-smart nostalgia trip about a house clearance in 1997 has black comedy oozing from every pore, as its protagonist Ben navigates the virulent ways we all trade in the reassurance, routines and self-deception of British family life. It cloaks a 14-year-old’s scrutiny of grown-up games in effortless and economical prose for a wickedly entertaining novel that is Nighty Night meets The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. ·        Comic and tragic, great Aunt Pearl is a devastating post-Church icon, and is the grave focus of Cook’s timely portrait of the pressures of self-determination and our failure to nurture meaning, belonging and dignity. As Ben grapples with his own beliefs and desires, he discovers that the bizarre ideas and seductive charm of a space-cult held remarkable sway over Pearl, which invites the question: what is left of civilisation when we lose the community of others? ·        Expected publicity coverage in literary reviews including the Guardian, Observer, Times, and the FT.