Dancing Jax | Chapter 14

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Warning: Contains Spoilers!

Their lives were about to explode and a bitter, heartbreaking end was fast approaching.

Aufwader’s Thoughts: I partially take it back about Felixstowe being devoid of all Robiny setting romance. Martin and Paul’s drive along the coast has a wonderfully theatrical air to it – those concrete structures waiting ‘like alien sculptures’, looking like mould from above, are a very creepy real-life embellishment. If anybody wants a soundtrack to that scene, I immediately thought of The Soulless Party’s pastoral nightmare ‘Tales from the Black Meadow’ – here’s the title track.

On to Gerald, probably the most lovable character in this series. I really enjoy all the detail that’s put into his house and garden (I’d stay at his B&B if I had the chance, it sounds like a lovely contrast to Felixstowe town centre) and of course, he’s an important piece of representation in Robin Jarvis canon, being the first confirmed gay character we’ve seen. (I like to think of him as a sort of spiritual successor to Giraldus, one half of what was arguably Robin’s real first gay couple, back in The Oaken Throne.)

In some ways, visiting Gerald is like a little holiday for Martin and Paul – Martin gets to have a chat about ordinary things and put aside the Disaster for a moment, and Paul is able to forget the ‘weird’ behavior of his friends that day at school. I definitely see Ben and Mr Roper in Paul and Gerald, and it’s quite heartwarming that this, the most horrible of Robiny series’, is letting us have a second chance at that dynamic – it almost heals the trauma of Mr Roper being so cruelly dispatched in A Warlock in Whitby.

Finally, there’s Martin’s encounter with Dancing Jacks, which confirms what I’ve been saying about the actual prose of Austerly Fellows’ great work being a bit, well, in need of an editor. More spookily, it also confirms that the power of Dancing Jacks is 90% Patented Austers Magic (TM). So now we have to ask – what is it about Martin that makes him immune? I have my own theory, but I’ll get to it further down the line.
Matt’s Thoughts: Now this is a chapter I remember. Considering it contained the first introduction of a gay character and a reverse marriage proposal in the same chapter, it was hard to miss. Robin Jarvis is now writing for a modern audience.

I will also admit that this time around, I decided to take the book’s suggestion and have a look at the Google Earth photos of the Felixstowe coast. Once you hear that description that the concrete coast reinforcements look like black mould invading Felixstowe, it’s hard to see it as anything else …

Finally, some bitter irony – one of my favourite of Mr Jarvis’ story-telling devices – in the ending here. The book, for whatever reason, doesn’t work on Martin, so he is saved from its influence. But because of that, he completely misses the danger of the whole thing and dismisses Shiela’s warning. And so we get another one of those whiplash foreshadowing chapter endings: ‘a bitter, heartbreaking end was fast approaching’.

Dancing Jax | Chapter 13

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Warning: Contains Spoilers!

‘The way is prepared and the empty throne is waiting.’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: I think this is probably my favourite chapter in this book. The tongue-in-cheek humour, the superb blending of the magical and mundane, the looming implications for the greater plot. The Ismus turning up to Jangler’s workplace like a husband in a 1950s sitcom yelling ‘Honey, I’m home!’ The observations on digital administration versus the paper-pushing days of the past. The random mortgage customer getting caught up in what is essentially a prelude to the end of the world. The mould. The gag about the Edinburgh Fringe. It’s all so enjoyable, and since there is progressively less enjoyment to be had in this trilogy as it goes on, let’s accept it as a mild interlude before the rot really sets in.

Matt’s Thoughts: Jangler goes on to become such an important part of the mythology of the Dancing Jax series that I had almost forgotten his origin story. I love the way this begins in a small, out-of-the-way law firm. Nondescript and boring – but with a long lineage of occult practitioners, clearly!

I again had to resort to Google to find out who Derren Brown and Harry Hill were, but then it suddenly occurred to me – is this another part of Mr Jarvis’ texture that when he throws in pop culture references, it’s often to B- or C-list celebrities? It would certainly fit in with the overall theme of the shallowness of modern English life. (Though, as an arts worker, I got a chuckle over the Edinburgh Festival joke.)

And speaking of the shallowness of culture, there’s the fascinating paragraph where the Jangler talks about the Nazarene’s reign being over and the worship of straw idols being in full flood. As a Christian, I occasionally come across the idea that if you brought idol worship into the modern era (at least in the West), it wouldn’t be statues and carvings  – instead, it would probably be the pursuit of fame, money, security, etc. But this is the first time I can remember seeing this concept put forward in a non-religious book. Again, it just adds to my fascination with this trilogy.

Dancing Jax | Chapter 12

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Warning: Contains Spoilers!

The disaster had done more than rob them of friends and classmates. It had told them, ferociously, they were not invincible and immortal.

Aufwader’s Thoughts: I mentioned the chapter headers a few posts ago, but in light of the ‘Dancing Jacks reads like a mediocre YA novel’ statement I made last chapter, I feel I have to bring them up again.

Look at the excerpt from the start of this chapter. Actually read it. ‘Let the peasants sing, hear their cheery ring’? ‘Someone will do bad that day‘? Being kind, it reads like a first draft. Being less so, it’s like some thirteen-year-old’s edgy 3AM poetry. Dancing Jacks, the book that sets out to dominate the world and draw in the unwary, is not well-written, and that somehow makes it so much more sinister. It pretty much proves that the draw of the book is not so much the writing or plot, but the unchecked evil of Austerly Fellows’s will, and the demonic influence of what he works for. Will anybody be able to stand against that?

Into the rest of the chapter, a series of painfully realistic confrontations. Call me soft, but despite my difficulty in fully empathising with Emma, I found the way Barry Milligan spoke to her to be quite distasteful. He could have given her a full and deserved upbraiding without saying she’s ‘as low as it gets’, suggesting that she’s emotionless, or comparing her to a savage dog.

As headmaster I felt he ought to have been setting an example for his traumatised students and taking the high road in that kind of situation, rather than sinking to insults and using his authority to vent his frustration.  Certainly, Emma deserves to be punished and made to understand the severity of her actions, and it’s in-character of Barry to be an unprofessional mess, but I felt a bit strange about it all the same. (Of course, that’s the point, the world of Dancing Jax is meant to be unapologetically horrible at every turn etc etc. But I thought it bared mentioning.)

In Martin’s classroom, the trauma really shows. He and his students are clearly not ready to fully face their grief yet, so they’re going through the motions in shock, hence the business with the desks and Martin correcting himself into the past tense with regards to Ashleigh and Keeley. We have to wonder if these poor people will ever get a chance to fully grieve, considering that Dancing Jacks really is on the move.

The little moment with Sandra Dixon spells that out in deeply creepy fashion, and is made worse by its similarity to the kind of warning signs real-life teachers are trained to watch out for in their students. It’s kept at arms length because we know that Sandra has been brainwashed by Dancing Jacks and has entered the ‘fantasy’ half of this story, but in reality, her sudden change in behavior would probably warrant investigation to stop or prevent cult-related abuse.

Then there’s Sheila’s visit, which more or less spells that out. Martin’s assumption that she’s involved with some kind of dodgy religious sect is closer to the truth than he realises, and makes the supernatural element of this trilogy all the more scarily realistic. Poor Sheila. She might’ve been an accomplice to crime, but she didn’t sign up to be dating a cult leader with demonic powers!

 

Matt’s Thoughts: We’re back in more familiar genre territory, with the early warning signs of some sort of mind take-over happening in Felixstowe, but even then, it is done so well. I particularly like the scene in the schoolroom with Martin because after the earlier chapter in Martin’s classroom, we could be forgiven for thinking that most people in his class are just yobs beyond redemption, as the press might say.

However, in that moment, he sees that there is a vulnerability underlying these kids and we get a moment of compassion from him. Which is, of course, why he misses the significance of Sandra acting strangely. He just assumes that this is her particular coping mechanism to deal with the trauma everyone else is feeling.

And thus he doesn’t connect it with Shiela’s tragic warning at the end of the chapter. Could crisis have been avoided at this point? I don’t know, but it adds to the overall sinking feeling of the book.

But my favourite moment has to be the discussion in the teacher’s room. I do believe Mr Jarvis was having enormous fun crafting the most outrageous lines possible when he wrote this book. And this one by Mrs Early, the English teacher, is phenomenal: ‘Seeing some silicone-bagged horror gagging on kangaroo testicles in the jungle is just the modern equivalent of watching the guillotined heads of the aristocracy roll into baskets. Nothing has changed. We all lap it up.’

Dancing Jax | Chapter 11

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Warning: Contains Spoilers!

‘None whom you wish for shall escape, save one, and that heart shall be the only one you desire.’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: In reviews of this book, I’ve seen quite a few people say some variant of ‘the scenes in Mooncaster were where this book really came to life’, praising them for their eloquence and creativity. Power to you if you enjoy the scenes in the Magickal Realme Of The Dancinge Jackes at face value, but I think what’s often overlooked is that they are a two-fold parody.

First of all, we’ve got the send-up of trends in young adult writing; a bland, ‘modernised’ take on a traditional fairytale with risque undertones, stock characters such as werewolves and maidens on their way to the cottages of good witches, even what could be read as a riff on that scene in Ridley Scott’s Legend where Princess Lili touches the unicorn, dooming the world to eternal winter by accident. This is all fairly out-in-the open and is something that those who are keen MG, YA, and folklore readers will instantly pick up on. Sincerely-meant takes on fairytales for a tween and teen audience are still everywhere today, as is nostalgia for the earnest-but-goofy fantasy films of the 80s, and it’s all fodder for the Dancing Jax mill.

So, the first layer of parody: the oh-so-evil book of dooooom which will brainwash the world and usher in unholy powers from other dimensions …reads like a mediocre YA novel. It’d be easy for me to say, ‘seems likely, eh. What a sign of the times, eh’, but honestly I think creative and interesting fantasy for teens is still being written by the cartload, so I can’t generalise smugly about YA as a whole.

The second layer is one that first-time readers of Robin Jarvis, or those who have only read one or two of his other books, would be forgiven for missing, and that is Mr Jarvis parodying himself.

We’ve already started to see it in Jezza/the Ismus – a ruthless send-up of Robin’s favourite archetype, the villainous high priest – and in the grimy pessimism of the Felixstowe setting, the antitheses of timeless Whitby or poetically sinister Deptford. The scene with the Jill of Hearts, however, shreds the ‘Robin Jarvis model’ like the unicorn in the pack of wolves. It’s all there – elegant, semi-historical dialogue, lush description, emotional melodrama, OTT gore, even a lesser-known figure of English folklore in the form of the Mistletoe King. Everything that Mr Jarvis is most known and enjoyed for, all neatly bound in a ‘bland YA fantasy’ dust jacket.

‘So what is Robin getting at with this?’ we rereaders ask ourselves. Is he making a point about how creativity is stifled by the publishing industry, forcing true talent to hide behind a middling, marketable facade? Are the Mooncaster scenes full of stock characters, but written in heady Robin Jarvis prose, to suggest that Dancing Jacks is both intended to appeal to a wide audience, while at the same time carrying an undercurrent of real magic and menace? Or is he merely saying, ‘Wow, some of the things I do in my books over and over are pretty easy to make fun of when you get right down to it, let’s do that for a change’? Honestly, I reckon it’s all of the above.

So yes, the Mooncaster scenes really are where Dancing Jax comes to life – for fictional purposes (of course the passages from the brainwashing devil-book are going to be full of verve and colour, how else would old Austerly expect to draw his readers in?) but also to further the truly epic ‘haw haw haw’ that was the writing and publication of this series. I can’t believe we’re only a third of the way into Book 1.

 

Matt’s Thoughts: Our first entry into the world of Mooncaster. In some ways, these interludes feel a bit like they slow up the pace of the story, but as Dancing Jax progresses, we realise that all of this is necessary groundwork.

What I find interesting about Mooncaster – at least from this chapter – is that the concept itself is a wee bit puerile. In fact, it’s almost Mr Jarvis’ greatest achievement of the whole series. See, if the book had been about a bunch of people who join up with a strange new religion or a cult, then he would have had to invent the rules of the religion and the beliefs. And these things – which often happen in real life – are often grandiose spins on already existing religions. In other words, too serious to have any fun with.

And while there certainly is a religious element to the iconography (e.g. the Christlike pose of Jezza in yesterday’s chapter), it’s somewhat amusing that once Sandra is actually in the book, it’s all teen princesses and werewolves. It’s quite clearly a not-so-subtle nod to the reams of supernatural YA fiction that have poured out since Twilight took the world by storm.

That said, it does have its quirks. I read this sentence several times and it still didn’t quite make sense: With that, the Mistletoe King jumped back, up into the tree, and rolled along the branches until he merged with another evergreen cloud. I mean, it makes sense, but in a surreal sort of way.

Also, the level of gore in this chapter is another strange thing. It seems somehow a bit too bloodthirsty for the genre and type of story that we’re in, as if there’s something more horrific lurking beneath the fantasy perfection of the story that breaks through on occasions. I don’t know whether Robin slaved hard to give multiple layers to this book like that, or whether it’s effortless for him, but it’s incredible writing.

Dancing Jax | Chapter 10

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And so Shiela witnessed the arising of the Ismus, and her mind reeled. 

Aufwader’s Thoughts: If Jezza arising as the Ismus on the third day after undergoing his Great Ordeal in the name of the Dawn Prince then appearing before his followers with his arms extended in a cruciform doesn’t practically loudspeaker from the rooftops what this series is going for, then honestly I don’t know what does. It’s all out in the open now, folks, even if neither the book, nor I, will be explicitly putting it into words quite yet.

Matt’s Thoughts: Yep, it’s pretty messed up. We’re not even entirely sure what the full extent of the book’s powers are, but we can clearly see that people are identifying with characters in the book and turning into pod people. But it’s the random ‘Oh no!’ nature of who picks the book up at the book fair that is the terrifying part. Conor Westlake, all right, if he picks it up, a bit unfortunate. Sandra – we’re concerned. Paul? NOOOOO!!!

Also worth a mention is the brief tragic interaction between Shiela and Martin. The fact that she was one of his brightest and went off to uni, only to now not be in uni is really sad. Especially because we don’t know what happened. Did she bump into Jezza, and he led her down a bad path? Did something else go on, she dropped out and Jezza was part of her plummet to the bottom? I don’t think we ever find out, but it ties into the wasted potential of England’s youth, all ripe to be sucked into the vortex of something like Dancing Jacks.

Actually, that’s one other great mystery, which I forgot on the way through. Why is the book called Dancing Jax with an X, when the book in the story is Jacks with a C-K-S? As with everything in this story, none of the details are in there by accident, so we’ll have to wait and see on that question as well.

Dancing Jax | Chapter 9

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‘Peasant coins are all we seek!’ he said with a crooked grin. ‘Just thirty of your shiny new pennies.’ 

Aufwader’s Thoughts: In come the hounds of the press, and the commentary aspect of this series really gets going. I hate to think how many distressing news channels, radio shows, and tabloids Mr Jarvis had to tune in to in researching this – from the glib reporters delivering ‘pieces to camera’ to the journalist photographers ambushing crying Felixstowe pupils for close-ups of ‘raw emotion’, it’s all very, very on-the-nose.

As for the teen characters, well, they are salaciously unpleasant reality TV caricatures, and that (unfortunately) also means moments of ‘camera confessional’ into their personal thoughts and feelings following the disaster.

The thing is, however, that even though we’re seeing into Conor and Emma’s heads, we’re not really empathising or engaging properly. At least to my mind, there is a rehearsed remoteness to Conor’s guilt over the car crash, and nothing about Emma’s obvious repressed trauma really redeems her for us as readers. It’s uncomfortable and voyeuristic, but not truly moving, to see the teen’s reactions; a ‘camera confessional’ filmed long after a staged event, again, more ‘real’ than real.

 

Matt’s Thoughts: It’s a really interesting chapter this one, again, because Mr Jarvis is engaging with the real world in a way that is totally unprecedented in anything of his we’ve read before.

You’ll notice that the social commentary has now moved from being just monologues by Jezza to being part of the fabric of the novel itself. My favourite line – and it’s almost a throwaway – is the cut back to the news anchor, displaying the legs that had served her so well in Strictly Come Dancing.

It’s brutal, but it gets the point across – these characters live in a world (and I’m not sure it’s much better today) where celebrity is everything. And I suspect the reason for the coldness of Emma and the spinelessness of Conor is simply because there is nothing going on in their life. There is a yawning emptiness and emotional disengagement from life that no amount of TV, music or even trauma is going to wake up.

In short, it’s the void into which the accursed book is going to pour itself.

Dancing Jax | Chapter 8

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Warning: Contains Spoilers!

‘You should be grovelling on your faces to be here, to witness the contract.’ 

Aufwader’s Thoughts: When I first researched the word ‘ismus’, I was amused and confused by the fact that the closest approximation was ‘isthmus’, a slender strip of land connecting two larger land-masses over the sea. Once I’d finished the whole series, however, I understood perfectly.

This chapter, like the entire trilogy, is a classic Robin Jarvis set-piece given a new and modern twist. Just as his class and religious commentary has been modernised and sharpened for an older, 2011 audience, the ‘sea of cranes’ setting is a clever contrast to, say, the ruins of Whitby Abbey or the slopes of Glastonbury Tor. The future of grandiose Robiny occult doings is here, in a shabby industrial estate, and it is literally electrifying.

Matt’s Thoughts: Ah, thanks for that, Aufwader! I too had done a fair share of searching for Ismus and where it might have come from and was always somewhat puzzled. But your explanation makes sense. (And will hopefully make sense to all the rest of the readers when they reach the end of the trilogy!)

I don’ have much more to add to the description of this chapter. It is a classic Jarvis occult set-piece with spectacular lighting and sound effects. However, I think what makes this one worse is that the last few chapters have set up a particularly realistic ecosystem of grotty teenagers, down-and-outs, pop culture and general British realism. So in other words, unlike others of his books, where I have very much felt like I’m in an escapist fantasy reality, the setting of this story feels so authentic that it feels as if the occult magic has broken through into the real world. There’s just an increased sense of plausibility here that makes the whole thing darker.

To be honest, after reading this, I would be fascinated to see what would happen if Robin wrote a book for adults, with no constraints at all. One can only imagine what that might be like!

Dancing Jax | Chapter 7

 

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Warning: Contains Spoilers!

That night had been a blast and would indeed be on the news.

Aufwader’s Thoughts: I said during the writeup for The Power of Dark that Tracy Evans and her cronies reminded me of the teens from Dancing Jax, and it was Emma, Ashleigh and Keeley I was thinking of when I made that comparison. Honestly though I feel like I was perhaps doing Tracy et all a disservice in that – they at least are traditional nasty Robin Jarvis young’uns, unlike this lot, who are, like all the other Dancing Jax teens, almost too accurate. (This disturbing life-like quality in the adolescent characters undergoes a shift in the second book, but for now, the first half of this chapter is so realistic that it practically smells of singed hair and cheap celebrity-endorsed perfume, and I am not enjoying it.)

Then there’s the events of this chapter, so crushingly real that it’s traumatic just to read about them. Matt was quite right when he said that the horrors of this series are ‘quite a lot’ even for a cynical teenage audience, and the terrible ‘Felixstowe disaster’, as it will come to be known, is just the beginning.

 

Matt’s Thoughts: One of the unanswered questions which I was curious about at this stage is: how did the mass emailing and texting take place? There is nothing remotely high-tech about Jezza and the gang, so there must be some other power at work here. (And I don’t think it’s Russian hackers, either!)

Also, I can’t remember when I first started to feel it, but I remember reading this book the first time and having a mounting suspicion that Mr Jarvis was going to take this trilogy in a direction that previously would have been only done in a certain category of horror film. I won’t tip my hand early, but I’ll tell you the things that worried me:

  • First off, the constant mention of the Dawn Prince in the little opening poems at the beginning of the chapter.
  • The number on the email and on the text message is 7734. Now, just pretend that you added the 3 + 4 together, you would then have 777 as the number. Does three numbers together like that make you think of anything?
  • Finally, there is the cryptic last paragraph where Martin describes the mystery celebrity, ‘choreographing the entire show’.

Ominous, right?

Dancing Jax | Chapter 6

 

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Warning: Contains Spoilers!

Destroying yourself before someone else does.’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: I hate to say it, since he’s meant to be the main protagonist and I’m fully aware that he’s written to garner a strong reaction, but Martin Baxter makes me wince. It’s probably because his ‘type’ is all-too-familiar – the cynical yet smug manner, the disregard for anything that doesn’t concern his personal circle, the way he retreats to sci-fi as if engaging with it as a ‘collector’ makes him somehow superior to those who enjoy the same things casually. He probably calls himself a ‘nerd’, gets into long arguments on internet forums, and whines about ‘kids today’ while listening to digitally remastered Doctor Who tracks on vinyl. Yikes.

Martin’s main characteristic at this point seems to be a kind of world-weary pessimism which has no clear basis. If it were revealed that he had been downtrodden all his life, mistreated and forced to hold out on his own, then his miserable attitude would be more understandable to us as readers. We would see his history and realise that a sore lot in life had twisted him into this embittered individual who bullies his pupils and agrees with statements like the one Barry Milligan makes about the ‘feminisation of education.’ But there’s no real excuse – Martin is just mediocre and self-absorbed, and it doesn’t exactly endear him as the hero (or anti-hero) of the story.

Look at the way this chapter starts – Carol comes home to tell Martin that she’s been a victim of identity fraud, and instead of being horrified, or even remotely concerned, Martin responds with shockingly cold sarcasm. He’s not even trying to pretend like he cares about her, and, as the next scene starkly shows, he’s clearly barely invested in her life or interests. How they’ve stayed together is a mystery to me honestly, and I feel rather sorry for Paul.

Actually, re: that line about credit card fraud, there’s a truly horrible bit of dark humour in the phrase ‘my identity has been stolen’ turning up in the early chapters of this book. Nice one, Robin. A round of applause for our author in residence.

 

Matt’s Thoughts: The most interesting part of the re-read for this trilogy could just turn out to be the way Aufwader and I read everything in a completely different way each time. I had always assumed that we were meant to read between the lines of the interaction between Martin and Carol and see a relationship where his geekiness and don’t-take-life-too-seriously attitude was the perfect foil for her very business-like and occasionally over-panicked attitude.

So thus, in the way he’s speaking to her at the beginning, it’s not so much that he doesn’t care what has happened about the identity theft, he is just letting her know that there are worse things in life that could happen and that she shouldn’t stress so much. And the fact that she softens to his approach, rather than gets more aggravated, would seem to indicate that this is the way those two operate. However, I can see how you could read it in other ways as well.

I suppose it also reminds me very much of my own marriage, where I am the geeky one who suddenly decides to do things like spending two years blogging through the complete works of Robin Jarvis, or dreaming up how to get the world into classical music again, etc. While my wife is much more practical and has a lot less time for fantasy, sci-fi – and absolutely nothing creepy.

Either way, whatever you think of their relationship, it is certainly the most contented we’ve seen anyone so far in the book and it’s as close to a small piece of happiness as we’re likely to find in this trilogy. Obviously, with the arrival of the email at the end of the chapter, we can see that things are about to get a lot more hairy!

 

Dancing Jax | Chapter 5

 

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Warning: Contains Spoilers!

‘The Dancing Jacks are with you.’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: Underneath the commentary on books as collector’s items (all that ‘second-hand kid’s book’ stuff is hilarious from an author who at the time was most recognised for out-of-print middle grade – we see you, Robin) this chapter is setting up for a big, bombastic set-piece of old. Now that Jezza’s cronies have eyeballed Dancing Jacks for real, there is no turning back from the doom (or, well, doooooom) already writ and recited. The stinger is that, this time around, we the readers are not looking forward to it.

Matt’s Thoughts: This chapter might be Jezza’s best rant yet, this time on that old marketing chestnut, Big Data, and all the paranoia that goes along with that. I would love to know the inspiration for these rants, because while there are many YA books that try to obliquely hint at big themes that young people should think about, I’ve never seen a book chuck in so many explicitly complex ideas as if it’s a Reddit thread, and then just leave readers to think about whether they agree with them.

Part of me suspects that Mr Jarvis starts each rant with a topic he might have some genuine concern over, writes it out, then ratchets it up to conspiracy-website levels, with a hint of YouTube comment section troll thrown in. Then he gets Jezza to say it in his voice and sees how it comes out.

What is somewhat fascinating is that somewhere later in the trilogy, someone refers to Jezza as a ‘Russell Brand clone’. This, while being an amusing insult, also raises a fascinating idea and a paradox. I’m not sure if Robin always had Russell Brand in mind when he created the character, but actually if you wanted someone who could walk right in and bring a character like Jezza to life, Mr Brand would pretty much just have to play himself and it would all work. The man even had a ranty YouTube series for several years!

However – and this is the paradox – given that Dancing Jax was written in 2010, when Brand was really only known for his comedy side, it’s far less likely that Jezza is a take-off of him. It seems instead to be more the case of real life imitating art!

That said, I do have fantasies that someone slips this book to Brand after a show, he reads it, gets enthusiastic about playing Jezza, pulls some strings, it becomes a Netflix series, and then it gets touted as the British answer to Stranger Things