Alan Warner has produced a searing, if flawed, post-millennial novel about dying and the consequences of knowing that life is ending sooner than it should. In his self-consciously pre-millennial 1989 novel, London Fields, Martin Amis paralleled the slow, knowing deaths of his narrator Sam and his protagonist Nicola Six with a growing sense of planetary disintegration and universal doom. ‘We used to live outside history. But now we’re all coterminous’, he wrote. Here Warner keeps the focus firmly on the personal history of his narrator Lolo Follano, a successful forty-year-old Spanish designer who lives alone and who, without any warning, is told by his doctor that he is HIV-positive. It is not coincidental that Lolo wrote his degree thesis on theories of design flaw. As he mulls over the minute details of his life and loves, Lolo gradually becomes an alienated figure, isolated from the future being constructed all around him.
Lolo has lived all his life in an anonymous seaside town in Spain whose ‘edge spaces’ have been transformed over the last twenty years by the grand, but somewhat half-baked, visions of property developers. He lives out towards Kilometre 4, in an area called the Phases Zones, in a top-floor