The first thing you notice about Matthew and the Derelict is the carefully structured, almost clinical writing, although it can run to lyricism at times:
“It was that time of night when the alcohol is beginning to take effect. When all the shops are closed, when all the restaurants are closed, and the city can stop worrying about being clean.”
Matthew follows Alan in sycophantic symbiosis as they move through the downtown area, spray-painting the ATM faces flat black. It’s a meaningless, purposeless act, but Matthew accepts the submissive role as his just due — his life story, it seems, reflecting a rudderless existence, fueled by blind fate.
Things get worse as Matthew finds a homeless man he once knew, befriends him, and then watches dispassionately the drunken violation of two underaged teenaged girls.
Another night, another impromptu party. They move from pub to club in a rented limousine. Matthew, drunk again — but still coherent enough to know better — participates in the gang rape of a girl who has been drugged.
Still later in the book, just when you think things can’t get worse, Matthew finds himself dragged physically to a suburban residence — drunk again — and is forced to have sex with a young woman while someone punches him repeatedly in the face.
On and on the violence and depravity go until a cataclysmic — and utterly senseless — act sends Matthew to a hospital, where he has a revelation in the middle of the night. He quietly disconnects all his peripherals and walks out into an unenlightened London.
He resolves to write and spread a manifesto to share his newfound knowledge. Now, if only he can find some paper, a pen, and a quiet refuge in which to compose his opus, he’ll be fine.
But nothing has ever come easily for Matthew, and this is no exception. He still has no moral backbone, never mind a compass, but he tries to bring some semblance of order from the depths of his chaotic mind.
He spends two months sleeping and living behind an abandoned factory, then emerges to share his apocalyptic knowledge.
It has to do with something he calls “the Infinite Instant” — a moment “when time and movement will become obsolete and the world will become an infinitely small and infinitely large flash of light, lasting forever while simultaneously vanishing before it can be seen.”
He sets out with two young men to distribute the manifesto, but runs into yet another problem which lands him back in the hospital.
Finally, in probably the only self-aware moment he has in the book, Matthew proclaims:
“There’s nothing worse than a man seeking an answer he would rather avoid; rushing headfirst by his own volition toward some individual pain and wishing to stop, looking for an excuse, someone else to blame for his relentless speed.”
Four stars to this unique, downbeat work of fiction. It is raw, and real, and gives us a glimpse into the mind and actions of a truly disturbed individual. If dark, noir novels are your thing, Matthew and the Derelict should suit you nicely.