Review: The Nix by Nathan Hill

A cracking debut from Nathan Hill – The Nix is funny, witty, satirical and moving at times. But in between those times, it’s just a lot of words.

On the campaign trail, future presidential candidate Governor Sheldon Packer (a right wing politician who has already made children and teachers recite the ten commandments before the pledge of allegiance) is in the park, glad-handing voters, when a 61 year old former hippie radical named Faye throws rocks at him. The inevitable mobile phone video becomes a national scandal.

It turns out that Faye is the estranged mother of a failed writer, Samuel, who has taken a hefty advance on a book he hasn’t written yet. In order to fulfill his part of his publishing deal, Samuel agrees to write a tell-all book about the Packer Attacker – a real hatchet job on the mother who walked out on him when he was 11 years old.

This is a pretty complicated plot, but it gives Hill the freedom to write about pretty much any aspect of life that he can think of. This freedom is one of the book’s flaws – there are massive diversions about stuff that in no way helps the plot – stuff about technology and online gaming. Here’s the thing though, Hill’s writing is so good he gets away with these digressions (in one chapter, he breaks up a cheating students arguments into the logical fallacies he has been trying to teach her in class – it had me laughing out loud on the train like a complete weirdo).

Outside of these digressions, The Nix is fantastic.There’s plenty to love in here – Hill moves between a hundred different styles (not always successfully, but you don’t always get what you want do you?), and it has enough humour to keep it enjoyable even when the plot disappears down a rabbit hole.

If you’ve enough time on your hands, then the Nix is well worth reading. Highly recommended.

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