Reviews

  • "Nicola Barker’s H(A)PPY is a work of vaulting ambition. It is deathly serious but played out with the lightest of touches. She takes the vapid discourse of social media blather, with all its ‘likes’ and ‘favourites’, and extrapolates madly to make a language for an utterly believable future world, a world enslaved by the blandness of its technology. Line by line, the novel carefully builds its music and teases out its crazed riffs. It’s very funny but there are pockets of great eeriness, and of savagery even. It’s a novel-as-object, too, with a typography employed as visual code, but its design always has a narrative purpose. Only a writer of uncanny ability could bring this novel to such memorable, pulsing life. It’s very moving."

    Kevin Barry
  • "H(A)PPY is anything but conventional, subverting the traditions of sci-fi, typography and narrative … The coloured words are joined by a host of typographical flourishes, making the book a bravura piece of design … Barker is as gnomic, terrifying and glorious as ever."

    Justine Jordan, Guardian
  • "Nicola Barker’s kaleidoscopic new novel is a socio-political futurama with a wildness and honesty all of its ownWhat wonders there are in Nicola Barker’s bewildering, fatiguing and deliciously stimulating new novel … Echoing and quoting literary styles and situations, disrupting the words on the page – via those coloured inks, blank pages, typographical games – in a manner that traces a line from Laurence Sterne to avant-gardists such as BS Johnson, Deborah Levy and Tom McCarthy … But H(a)ppy ventures far beyond a retread of narratological theory … Any description of H(a)ppy can only fail to do justice to its wildness and its honesty. It is a superb novel by a genuinely experimental and committed novelist. In Barker’s hand, narrative, however fragile, not only survives but thrives."

    Alex Clark, Observer
  • "(Barker) specialises in formal eccentricity, thematic novelty, stylistic excess ... Her new book is her strangest yet, an avant-garde slice of dystopian science fiction that thumbs its nose...at the conventions of the genre ... It is a small miracle that this uncompromising anti-novel about the collapse of narrative absolutely works ... Barker is as innovative and idiosyncratic as ever."

    Edmund Gordon, Sunday Times
  • "No book Nicola Barker writes is remotely like a book by anyone else, which is one of the many reasons to celebrate her. Also, no two books by Nicola Barker are doing remotely the same thing, which is another. So you never quite know what you’re in for. And H(A)PPY, even by her own extravagant standards, is very strange indeed … Barker has always been a visionary writer – visionary in style, with past and present interpenetrating in dream and hallucination. But her interest in religious visions and theology here comes to the fore … As I say, Barker is not remotely like any other writer. With its typographical jiggering about (words really do change colour, and some pages have blocks of identical text or no text at all), and its favouring of symbols and ideas over characters, setting and story, it’s more like a poem or artwork than a novel. Still, it’s quite something. I’m just not sure what."

    Sam Leith, Literary Review