by Nicola Barker
William Heinemann

When I opened my copy of H(A)PPY, the 12th novel by acclaimed and idiosyncratic British writer Nicola Barker, it was back-to-front. Not only was the text upside down, but it began at the end. For a second I thought this was a characteristically Barker-esque joke. H(A)PPY is that most popular of genres: a post-apocalyptic novel, but with twists, one being that it is minced through Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: “How curious … How perplexing,” our narrator notes/quotes. “It started with the child – a little girl.” This is Mira A, a perfect example of “The Young”, who live in the best of all possible worlds. Life is an unending and perfect present, extremes are banned and each mind runs on computer data. What kind of stories can such a world produce? Mira’s struggles to answer this question cause chaos: “Any attempt to form these random facts into a narrative will meet with chaos.” In H(A)PPY, narrative implodes into Barker’s typical typographical games: blocks of colour formed by words and imprinted with strange symbols, sentences scattering, worlds within worlds. It is glorious, challenging, funny, bewildering and moving. It is Nicola Barker at her best.