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Breathe: Everyone has to do it

by Christopher Fowler

(Telos, £.99, 102 pages, paperback; also available in deluxe, signed and numbered, limited edition hardback priced £25.00; published June 2004.)

Review by Christopher Teague

This new novella from one of the finest horror writers in the cover scanUK is billed as "The Office meets Night of the Living Dead". It's an accurate tagline from Telos, the publishers, but it's not Fowler's best work.

Set within the sprawling financial district of London, and the headquarters of SymaxCorp, Ben, the new Health and Safety officer, along with Miranda (a temp), and two fellow workers, Meera and June, discovers something mysterious, and the fact that the ever-watched employees act strangely...

Christopher Fowler is known for his dark humour, and here it seems to be lacking, with one-dimensional stereotypical characters, and an overall feeling that Fowler rushed this novella through - it reads like a first draft. If it were a film, then this would be a straight-to-video schlock-fest.

That's not to say the book is bad - it's a very enjoyable slice of hokum, with a frenetic pace, and splatteriffic setpieces aplenty. But, I was left wanting - perhaps, if this were a novel, then Fowler would have the space to add his trademark wit; incite a more scathing and satirical bite to the politics of big business. Who knows?

Ultimately, a disappointment for Fowler fans - perhaps the novella just isn't his form, his writing either more suited to novels, such as the superb Psychoville and Spanky, or short stories, with those found in the wonderful Uncut collection.

On reflection, maybe the tagline should read, "9 to 5 meets Day of the Dead": good and enjoyable though ultimately nothing special, and not quite reaching the wit of The Office nor the originality of Night of the Living Dead.


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