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08May

Here Goes Nothing by Steve Toltz review – an overblown afterlife comedy

A lax approach to plot and character makes this near-future fantasy about a murdered man and his wife only fitfully funny

“Now that I’m dead… ” begins the murdered narrator of Steve Toltz’s new book, whose chapters alternate between the afterlife and a near-future Sydney beset by “drone terrorism, nanobot murders, hurricane firestorms and utter global chaos”. The Covid era, known as “the Fattening” (“all that gruelling isolation and silly panic buying and overeating… The only thing we learned was how to hide from deliverymen”), has given way to a new pandemic, K9, spread by dogs.

When the news seems like a novel, you may as well play loud, but I’m not sure Toltz knows any other way. The salty explorations of masculinity in his previous books, A Fraction of the Whole (shortlisted for the Booker in 2008) and Quicksand, sometimes resembled being stuck in a lift with an aspiring standup. While the intricate concept behind Here Goes Nothing hints at newfound discipline, the scattershot result suggests he’s still figuring out how to make his routines amount to more than the sum of their parts, which isn’t to say there isn’t fun to be had en route.

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