Contract (book, Simon Spurrier, 2007)
A book by comics author Simon Spurrier. An unusual read this, and one that I can still bring to mind now. That’s a mark of success, that. From Death Ray.
THREE AND A HALF STARS
Author: Simon Spurrier
As the hero of Contract says, pieces of paper can be very important. In his case, it’s the contract he signs, in Spurrier’s case, it’s that on which his stream-of-consciousness novel is printed.
Spurrier’s worked for years as a writer for 2000AD, and has also had a handful of 2000AD and Warhammer 40,000 spin-off novels published. Ask his colleagues about him and they say nice things. It’s not then altogether surprising that this book’s not bad at all.
Mike Point is a hit-man, a pretty good one, who finds himself in a great deal of bother when one of his hits gets back up again. This episode, unsettling even for a hardened killer like him, is followed by a meeting with a man who somehow knows his name, which in turn leads Point to taking a contract for one million pounds. All this is highly irregular, but, as Point tells us: ‘It’s. All. About. The. Money.’ So he decides to do it anyway, only to discover that the guy he’s signed the contract with is the one guy you should never, ever sign a contract with.
The storyline is nothing unusual– hitman gets stuck up to his neck in wierd-ass doo-doo. What makes the book is it’s narrative style. Spurrier has opted for a breathless, repetitive, rhythmic mode which is as relentless as the beats of life – air in a car window, heartbeats, heavy music, hooves on turf, pounding headaches – he weaves in as a clever counterpoint. This is a book with a thumping great bass beat. Just when you think you could quite happily throttle the self-obsessed narrator, Spurrier throws in a second character, Mike’s only friend Sally, whose secret notes nicely deflate Mike’s (and by extension Spurrier’s – it feels like there’s a lot of him in Point) pomposity – a piece of wicked self-deprecation on the part of the writer. His other big idea is ‘borrowed wisdom’, a riff that plays on over the jarring drums of Point’s life. Point is an internet-educated trivia buff, and though he endlessly dismisses what he’s read or heard as irrelevant, it’s actually only this “borrowed wisdom” that allows him to do his job. Think of both sides of the “Is Wikipeadia evil?” debate, played out over a catchy dance tune.
That Spurrier’s opted for such a non-conventional style is great. It’s the book’s biggest strength, but it is also its greatest weakness because, if you don’t buy into the tempo, it’ll irritate the crap out of you. Guy Haley