Jonathan Barnes’s new book is a labyrinthine literary thriller that cleverly plays with ideas of authorship and text, while satirising our obsession with money and celebrity. With the rise of the internet and e-books, the terrifying question arises: can a text be stable? Would we notice if, say, Orwell were edited, subtly, year on year, until the text became something entirely different? What if it weren’t a human editing the texts, but something else entirely? And what if those edits had an actual effect upon reality itself?
Dr Toby Judd is a bumbling lecturer at a provincial university, always in the shadow of his smart, media-friendly colleague, J J Salazar. Both have a passion for Matthew Cannonbridge, Britain’s favourite writer, whose novels and poetry rank above Dickens and Shakespeare in popularity. The minutiae and backbiting of university