I don’t recall how I stumbled upon Millington’s book—some oblique link on Amazon, no doubt—but he seemed of the trendy sort of writers who came into prominence from the internet. No doubt, I thought, he would be easily digestible and sharp-tongued. He would say snarky things about relationships, and cuss with British slang.
I’m happy to announce that I was right on all of these counts. Millington’s career as an author came out of some awful-looking website he put together in 2001. It’s essentially a list of Seinfeld-like witticisms about the difference between the sexes, of the What’s the deal with men and T.V. remotes? variety. This was adapted into his first book, and a long string of mediocre ‘sequels’ followed.
Love and Other Near-Death Experiences is one such mediocre sequel. It’s a quirky mix of Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity and James Othmer’s The Futurist: a hum-drum radio DJ has a dysfunctional relationship with his fiancé that only gets worse after mere chance prevents him from dying in an explosion. Now, crippled by uncertainty about his actions (which, I believe, was the plot of an episode of Duckman 10 years ago), he has to go on a journey to find himself. Along the way, he meets a corn-fed Nebraskan evangelical with a penchant for combat, a suicidal chain-smoking woman who cusses like a sailor and reminds me of Helena Bonham Carter’s character in Fight Club, and a ditzy Wiccan conspiracy theorist with a “nice arse.”
Toss in an assortment of minor characters, a lot of cute cockney curses and other turns of phrase, and you’ve got a ready-made novel without any sort of character development that didn’t telegraph itself within a few paragraphs. The plot’s absurd, which would be perfectly fine if Millington had just gone ahead and written the novel as an absurd comedy and not some ambivalent bastard dramedy. Instead, it’s a muddled mess that I only finished to finish, and not out of some sense of curiosity or emotional involvement with the characters.
Perhaps Millington’s original site-based book is much funnier; I’ll likely never know, as Love and Other Near-Death Experiences was tepid enough to turn me off to the author in general. Avoid this one unless you’ve got a particularly good reason to do otherwise.