Kevin Power

Rake’s Progress

Hystopia

By David Means

Faber & Faber 336pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

What if Lee Harvey Oswald, squeezing off those three fatal rounds from the Book Depository in Dallas on 22 November 1963, had botched the job? What if John F Kennedy, wounded but triumphant, had gone on to win a second and then a third presidential term? What if, under Kennedy’s auspices, America’s war in Vietnam had been mercilessly intensified? These, it seems, are the counterfactual données that underwrite Hystopia, David Means’s debut novel (hitherto he has been known as a writer of highly polished, slightly trippy short stories). But mark that ‘seems’: Hystopia is a novel pitted with trapdoors, a fictional puzzle box in which, as one minor character puts it, ‘Surety is a thing of the past.’ 

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