What Da Cover Says: A sly, madcap novel about supervillains and nothing, really, from an American novelist whose star keeps rising
The protagonist of Percival Everett’s puckish new novel is a brilliant professor of mathematics who goes by Wala Kitu. (Wala, he explains, means “nothing” in Tagalog, and Kitu is Swahili for “nothing.”) He is an expert on nothing. That is to say, he is an expert, and his area of study is nothing, and he does nothing about it. This makes him the perfect partner for the aspiring villain John Sill, who wants to break into Fort Knox to steal, well, not gold bars but a shoebox containing nothing. Once he controls nothing he’ll proceed with a dastardly plan to turn a Massachusetts town into nothing. Or so he thinks.
With the help of the brainy and brainwashed astrophysicist-turned-henchwoman Eigen Vector, our professor tries to foil the villain while remaining in his employ. In the process, Wala Kitu learns that Sill’s desire to become a literal Bond villain originated in some real all-American villainy related to the murder of Martin Luther King Jr. As Sill says, “Professor, think of it this way. This country has never given anything to us and it never will. We have given everything to it. I think it’s time we gave nothing back.”
What I Says: I remember having an argument at school with my maths teacher on how pointless maths was, I said I was never going to find a use for the numerical mumbo jumbo he was throwing at me, he said “trust me one day you’ll need maths and you’ll be thankful for what I taught you”, well the jokes on him as when reading this book I needed maths and “nothing” he taught me helped me to understand what was going on in this madcap novel. It is quite the odd book this one, it doesn’t take itself seriously whilst trying to put over a serious message, it tries to draw in the reader with wonderful characters that you’ll love and at the same time it pushes the reader away with the impossibly confusing way it deals with the nothingness of nothing…there is almost a physical pulse on these pages, for me it was “my head hurts” quickly followed by laughter and then “my head hurts” and repeated until the final page.
I really liked Sill, the man is mad but he is one h-e-l-l of a villain, he is rich beyond measure, has everything he needs and has one wish in life, to make it as a Bond super villain, the proper old school cat-stroking kind of bad guy, not the boring nonsense that the recent Bond had to face. Then you have Wala and Eigen a couple of mathematicians who get pulled into Sill’s orbit and find themselves as far outside of their comfort zones as it is possible to get…well maybe not quite as they didn’t have to do karaoke. Wala is our protagonist and you can’t help but like him, he has very simple needs and a way of seeing the world that makes you smile. And then there is Trigo, a dog with one leg who talks with Wala in his dreams and helps him to make sense of the current situation and plan his next move, a true hero.
There are some fantastic lines here (see the one above that is on the cover) and whilst I found myself scratching my head over the mathematics I still was thoroughly entertained, the scenes move fast and the humour is very clever, although a certain orange ex president wouldn’t be laughing if he could read. The second book by Everett I’ve read and so far I’ve loved what he has written.
Many thanks to Influx Press for sending me this copy to review. Support the publisher by buying it direct from HERE: