Fun isn't a word with much cache. It intimates surface pleasure only;
a kind of flip, take-or-leave banality viewed by someone unsure what
true pleasure really is. In literature, it's almost sacreligious.
Consider even the increasingly outdated term, 'good fun.' What is
good fun as opposed to bad? In fact, when it comes to books, isn't bad
fun much more likely to tease an initial interest than good?
The only exception to this rule is, perhaps, in the field of music;
specifically, its alleged 'fun' side; those dubious novelty records we
grew up with. A bad novelty record enticed us to destroy the radio
and 'hang the DJ.' (This was particularly the case when the notorious
Radio One playlist demanded the latest was played on the hour
alongside every other current single).
Whereas a 'good' at least held a certain more tolerable charm that
avoided inspiring negative hate. But these always were rare little
beasts. It's pleasing then that Rachael Dixon's first short novel -
described as the first in a series - represents the high end of what good
fun can achieve.
Libby Hood and her small dog Rufus awake to another normal day
that fatally shifts gear when they inadvertently step into the path of a
speeding car. On 're-awakening' they find themselves on a tourist-
crowded beach called Sunray Bay in high summer. So far, the surface
fun. They also find themselves being followed by a strange donkey-
ride man who will ultimately lead Libby, and us, into a closer set of
relationships she had spent most of this journey of self-discovery
in understandable denial. For the incredulous girl discovers there are
only two kinds of being in this not so benign Purgatory; and both
are monsters. So, she has to be one of them - doesn't she?
To her credit, Dixon's likely influences are by no means obvious.
The objectification of Libby's soul transposed into her pet might evoke
Pullman's 'His Dark Materials,' while the sadistic, prison-style
governance and its rebel gangleaders roaming the holiday camp
atmosphere harbour a distant echo of Burgess's 'A Clockwork
Orange.' Except 'Slippery Souls' strives to be kinder, more teenage,
and the backstories of the nastier characters play out to reveal they
are more misunderstood than we might, at first, have given them
There is a playful naivete in the prose style, to the extent I wished
some of the jokey exchanges between Libby and Rufus (who, in
this realm, can now talk) were a little less obviously worded and
rather more cutting. Today's younger readers could almost certainly
Yet I admired Dixon's understanding of the need to accumulate pace
alongside the gradually revealed elements of the plot; never an easy
thing to achieve for a first novel. By pulling this off, I was
increasingly gripped right up to the climax.
'Slippery Souls' is a fantasy not as deep, profound or multi-layered
as most releases reviewed here. But this is not the audience.
Instead, this is a crowd-pleaser for the kind of setting this ebook
represents. It is a cherry-topped, glazed sundae of a late summer read.