Review: The Forensic Records Society by Magnus Mills

One for the vinyl hipsters out there, Magnus Mills’s latest is about a bunch of men who meet every week to listen to vinyl records.

I don’t quite know how I feel about this – on the one hand it might be one of the most boring books I’ve ever read, but it might also be one of the funniest. Likewise, it may be a simple tale about nothing but the quirks of real ale drinking men, or it might also be an allegory about the the inevitable implosion of  any kind of society (or religion for that matter). I just can’t make up my mind.

In the Forensic Records Society, Mills writes about a few friends who set up a society to listen to vinyl records in the back room of their local pub. From this point on, the men of the society start bickering, set up rival societies, spy on their enemies, undermine each other, and plot their downfall. Like I said, it could be an allegory about the decline and fall of any society – it seems particularly relevant since Brexit, or an inward looking US. As Mills writes:

“Was it really beyond human capacity, I pondered, to create a society which didn’t ultimately disintegrate through internal strife? Or collapse under the weight of its own laws? Or suffer damaging rivalries with other societies”

Mills’s style is as minimal as it gets – like  couldn’t be bothered putting in any effort. Characters are only distinguished by their names, their hair, and their record collections, the plot finishes in almost exactly the same place it started, and barely moves out of the pub. Even the dialogue is defined as much by things the characters don’t say as the things they do – meaningful glances cast across pints of ale are used rather than actual conversation.

In fact, there’s so little going on here, it’s hard to fathom how Mills took 190 pages to say it all.

In the end, I thought this was an interesting read, though not a good one. I wouldn’t recommend it all if it weren’t for the awesome cover, which is worth 3 stars on its own:

The Forensic Records Society by Magnus Mills

So what do you think? Have you read it? Did you like it? Would you recommend it?

Let me know in the comments!


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