Book review: Lucia by Andy Hixon - pictures from a dystopian near future
by Andy Hixon
Before we begin, two quick things: the first is that Lucia by Andy Hixon should really come with some kind of health warning, for it certainly isn't for the faint-hearted.
Yes, it's sometimes darkly funny. But it's also grim. The second is that I can't remember the last time I saw artwork so disorienting or weird. I've no idea how Hixon does it - is a computer involved? - but his pictures are both deeply macabre and disturbingly realistic, like photojournalism gone badly wrong.
We are in a dystopian near future. Lucia is a seaside town that's down on its luck: everything is closed, everyone is unemployed, and all the while the cliffs are falling into the sea.
Our guides in this hell are Brick and Morty. The former is a fantasist shadow boxer too poor even to own any clothes, the latter a heartbroken disabled divorcee. Together, they take us to Lucia's various "hives": the Job Hive, which can be reached only by rowing a boat; the Money Hive, a pawn shop; and the Video Hive, where a small bag of ancient VHS tapes is yours for £5.
Brick and Morty earn a living collecting scrap from along the side of the motorway. Their idea of a treat is a trip to Wendy's Cafe, a filthy hole on whose "menu" there is only one dish that is safe to eat: chips with gravy. (The "seafood" will kill you.)
Nothing much happens in Hixon's book. The characters banter a bit and contort their wasted bodies, and hitch a ride on a diminutive seaside donkey called Don-K. (Nothing is quite the right size in Lucia.)
But plot isn't really the point here. This is a grisly hallucination. Open Lucia, and you won't be able to do anything but gawp, pop-eyed, at the spectacle of its feral denizens: their pasty flesh, their twisted faces, their red eyes. Yet it's impossible to turn away.
They are so pathetic, in both senses of the word: bruised and battered, and yet still so grimly chipper, so determined that something - anything - will turn up. Dickens would have recognised them and so, too, would J.G. Ballard.
I suppose what I'm feeling my way towards saying is that, above all, Lucia reads like a warning. It is a book that rages furiously against neglect.