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13Jul

Venomous Lumpsucker by Ned Beauman review – a cerebral eco-thriller

This grief-stricken yet very funny tale about the search for an endangered fish speaks to our age of mass extinctions

In a somewhat more nerdy and blokeish literary culture, Ned Beauman would probably be more famous. It’s easy to imagine the four precision-engineered, shaggy-dog thriller-comedies that he published between 2010 and 2017 going down a treat in, say, the 60s or 70s. But in the 2020s, the vast majority of literary fiction is, as we are frequently reminded, bought (and, increasingly, written) by women; and there is something fundamentally boyish about Beauman’s novels that puts him, I suspect, out of step with prevailing tastes.

By which I certainly don’t mean that his books espouse the cruder brands of toxic masculinity. Rather, they tend to skirt the dramatic intricacies of the human heart in favour of the sort of hobbyish enthusiasms we associate with a teenage boy who, let’s say, has a large collection of science fiction novels (don’t get me wrong: I was this teenage boy). We have come to valorise this kind of writer less and less; and with this re-evaluation has come both profit and loss.

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