From the author of the international best-seller The Stone Man, shortlisted for Audible UK's Book of the Year Award 2015.
In the late 1990s, a laptop was found in a service station just outside of Manchester. It contained a digital journal entitled 'TO THE FINDER: OPEN NOW TO CHANGE YOUR LIFE!' Now, for the first time, that infamous diary is being published in its entirety.
It's 1998. The Internet age is still in its infancy. Google has just been founded. Eighteen-year-old supermarket shelf-stacker Nigel Carmelite has decided that he's going to become a vigilante.
There are a few problems: how is he going to even find crime to fight on the streets of Derbyshire? How will he create a superhero costume - and an arsenal of crime-fighting weaponry - on a shoestring budget? And will his history of blackouts and crippling social inadequacy affect his chances? This is Nigel's account of his journey; part diary, part deluded self-help manual, tragically comic and slowly descending into what is arguably Luke Smitherd's darkest and most violent novel.
What do you believe in? And more importantly, should you?
©2016 Luke Smitherd (P)2016 Luke Smitherd
Absolutely adored this story. So many laugh out loud moments, it makes you want to share them with someone. At times absolutely hilarious and others so heart wrenching, this was such an engaging and enjoyable story. Can't recommend it highly enough, you won't be disappointed.
Regular readers of Luke Smitherd may find themselves checking the cover of this book to make sure he actually wrote it because it is unlike any of his other works. First, there is nothing paranormal or supernatural about it; second, it is laugh-out-loud funny at some points; and, finally, the main character is a disturbed teenage boy who wants to become the world’s first “real” superhero.
Nigel Carmelite is an eighteen-year-old boy who hasn’t had an easy life. There are allusions to problems in his past, but most of them are barely mentioned (although there is a very sad story about a boy and his bike) and their impacts on Nigel’s life are left to the reader to determine. We learn about his current life: he works in a supermarket; he is a loner, mostly because he doesn’t know how to interact with other people; he has a crush on a girl at work; and he is keeping a diary to record his journey from “normal” guy to superhero so that others can learn from him and follow in his footsteps. He believes this is his destiny.
But Nigel isn’t a “normal” person, whatever “normal” is supposed to mean in his world or ours. He is damaged. The circumstances of his early years took their toll on him and he never received the help he needed. He created his own world where he was the good guy and he was the guy who was always right. He couldn’t exist any other way because “normal” life hurt too much. If Nigel lived in the US, he is the type of person who would shoot up a public place and then turn the gun on himself, and later, people would say he was “quiet” and “always did his job” but was difficult to get to know because he was so ill-at-ease around others.
Some people have commented that their dislike of Nigel hurt their ability to enjoy the book fully. That is unfortunate. If all a person does is read the words on the page, Nigel is a jerk. He writes with disdain about most other people he knows. If you read between the lines, however, you can see he insults others because he thinks they are getting in the way of him fulfilling his destiny.
He also knows the rest of the world sees him as a loser, if they even notice he exists, but he rarely lets himself acknowledge that reality. You can see this in a few diary entries where he talks about how stupid he is (quite vehemently), but he always comes back to blaming other people for his troubles. He HAS to be right or he can’t be the superhero. By putting down everyone else, he is building himself up into the person he believes he really is.
The book is very well-written. Nigel is a person you can empathize with because there is a small part of him in all of us. Yes, it is humorous in many places, but there are also moments that may leave you in tears. The most impressive thing, however, is how incidents in Nigel’s life are shown to repeat themselves (in different contexts), forming patterns that turned him into the person he is. Some of these are obvious, but others are very subtle so the readers are left to discover them and determine for themselves how they impacted Nigel. That is not an easy thing for an author to do, but here, it is done beautifully.
This book covers a very short time period in Nigel’s life, but by the end, we know everything we need to know about him and why he needs to be a superhero—because he does need it. He may come across as a jerk at first, but that is just covering up his insecurities and lack of self-worth. His diary is funny because he is so earnest about the things he is writing, even though they are preposterous. Nigel could never comprehend that we are laughing AT him, not with him. The only way he knows to make his life worth something is to become a superhero, which, ultimately, is the saddest part of the story and leads to unintended, heartbreaking consequences.
If you don’t fully appreciate the brilliance of this book at first (I didn’t), read it again. You will catch things you missed the first time and will, hopefully, fully appreciate the skill that went into crafting it. There are too many Nigel Carmelite’s out there. Most don’t try to become superheroes; most live their lives quietly and alone and we never know they exist. That is the true message we should learn from this book.
There are Nigels all over, but most of us are too caught up in our own daily lives to see them or attempt to help them. Maybe we should try a little bit more. Maybe we’re too busy to see their hands desperately reaching out to us or maybe they’ve given up. Nigel is virtually screaming for help throughout this book. No one hears him or maybe they are too busy laughing at him to notice. So, in the only way he knows, he resorts to helping himself. He adapts to the circumstances of his world—and loses so much in the process.
This would be the first!
I'm usually wary of authors who read their own books, but this guy was fantastic!
this is my first Luke book. I was searching Audible and happened upon it. the story was dark fun. Entertaining. Narration was great relaxing EZ listening. wish it was longer.
I am gonna get another , better known, LM Book soon.
FYI. This is from USA California,
Luke's books are always enjoyable, in his unique dark sort of a way. This is a strangely positive innocent book to start with, but all the time there is a discomfort, and a knowing that things are not quite right. And by the end you know just how wrong they are.
The central character, Nigel. He's a very complicated person, but doesn't realise it. Ever the optimist too.
I have listened to a number of Luke's other books, all of them are great. This one is a bit different, less sci-fi, but a great listen anyway. Personally I thought this one started a little slower, but I was totally hooked by the end.
"Keep your motivation"
Luke is a fantastic author, and this, while not his best in my opinion, is still well worth a purchase. Thoroughly enjoyed it.
This book will make you laugh and cringe at the same time. It is a fascinating story of how an unstable obsessed person could attempt to live real life in a fantasy. You will not be able to stop listening.
I have been a big fan of Luke Smitherd for some time now. This book is in someways different from books like The Stone Man or The Physics of the Dead in that it is not specifically a science fiction book. It is very much like all of his books in that the character development is strong and the book is unpredictable.
This book has some funny moments and some heartaching moments. I like when he's trying to figure out his costume and what he wants to wear. And the masks he draws. I didn't like the part with the girl. But mr smitherd made it all come together like a pro. I'll read more from him.
I received this as a gift.
As usual, Luke's character development is what keeps me reading.
The dangers of living inside one's mind.
This is a different book than we are used to seeing from Luke Smitherd, but do not let that scare you away. There are certainly thrills and chills. And, as he always does, Luke has you feeling for the main character as he carefully develops what makes them tick. Though, this time you are more apt to cringe at the main character's inner machinations that lead to the choices he makes. You won't want to put it down!
If I ever want to feel better about myself as a would-be vigilante (aren't we all?), Nigel will remind me how difficult it is... and why I probably shouldn't do that.
The ending... no spoilers... but, the ending. Damn. So powerful.
Aside from the ending, pretty much any time Nigel was interacting with other, normal, people. Smitherd does such a great job of showing us their awkward feelings & Nigel's complete ignorance. Truly hysterical stuff.
Extreme... no. But that's only b/c I've come to know what to expect from Mr. Smitherd. He is creative & wholly entertaining. On this one, he delivered once again.
This guy, Nigel, is such a... well... a loser!... we can't help but love him dearly. He is so obviously not the vigilante he believes himself to be.
And yet, Nigel IS working out. And he IS studying hard. And he IS putting great amounts of energy into every conceivable aspect of actually becoming a real-life vigilante.... from his Name to his Costume to his Vehicle to his Weaponry... even his Origin Story is part of the makeup of this diary. I couldn't help but thinking, even from the early chapters, that maybe... just MAYBE Nigel would pull it off. Maybe he really *would* become a vigilante.
As with all of Smitherd's stories, he entertains with genuine creativity & genuine characters. I *like* Nigel, despite how lame he is. I *see* the frustration of his work acquaintances as they try to understand his peculiarities. I *feel* the buildup of passion and fear and hope and despair as we get closer & closer to that ending.
And GOD that ending. No, I won't spoil it. I'm not that kind of reader. But what I *can* tell you is that it's powerful. Emotional. Memorable.
You will not regret experiencing this story. It's fantastic.
I've read all of LS's books, and (at the risk of sounding like a book blurb) he's one of the most creative, fresh voices in recent fiction....or even distant fiction. I got this book without reading anything but the title so had no expectations what it would be like. I think this is a great way to approach Smitherd's books, since they are so wildly different & different from each other. If you have no preconceived notions, you're guaranteed to be surprised. Or even if you do.
The main character in this book is one of the more problematic characters I've run across in a long time; the guy's basically a socially inept, clueless nutjob with delusions of grandeur, but among laughing (or groaning) at his cluelessness & wincing at his insane ideas, there were times when I felt genuine sympathy for him. He often would then proceed to do something so self-rationalizingly wacko that I'd want to reach into the book & strangle him, but I would never say he's a cardboard character.
I have no serious and few minor gripes with Smitherd's writing; the pace of the book was pretty even, with very few only mildly draggy parts. He is wickedly funny at times. His dialogue is excellent --a very, very rare thing. The only nitpicks are that he seems to use the term "floor" to describe the outdoor substrate sometimes, whether road surface or dirt, which occasionally can be confusing, but maybe that's due to he & I being from different sides of The Pond. He did commit one of my own personal bugbears in this book, which probably won't bother most (normal) folks, but he did actually use that dreadful cliche about pain being almost an old friend. After decades of chronic pain I guarantee that is only said by people who haven't experienced it. Unless they're true, hardcore, long-term masochists, I guess.
Smitherd also does a great job of reading his books (tho it took me a while to stop trying to figure out where he'd messed up & blasted off with extremely hilarious profanity after listening to an 'outtakes reel' on his website.* But the recording was seamless). His pacing & expression is excellent, his voices for characters are recognizable & believable, & his accent is lovely to my ears, as is his voice. He mentions in the afterward of this book that he's got a contract on his next book for pro publishing, which probably means he won't read it; I have very mixed feelings. I'm extremely happy for this terrific emerging writer that he's finally getting attention from pro houses, but I really do like his self-narration.
I continue to look forward to more books by him & really hope he finally gets the major publishing contract he deserves. There are SO many "best-selling" writers out there churning out barely literate, formulaic crap that it's a travesty that someone as interesting & good has had to scramble with self-publishing. Tho I suppose that the publishing houses would have a problem with Smitherd partly because he is so different & almost uncategorizable; they like to slot books & authors into simple, 1- or at most 2-word slots, & he's one of the least slottable writers I've ever run across.
*if you're offended by naughty words, do NOT check this out. If you're not, it's pretty hysterically funny. But then folks who want strictly G-rated language probably don't last long with his books anyway.
"We're Only Making Fans For Nigel"
Well here we go it’s that bloody Smitherd bloke . . . AGAIN! Ridiculous premise, dopey sounding plot, run of the mill title and when you put them all into a story you somehow get something exceptional. Adrian Mole meets Walter Mitty on acid and chaos ensues! The lead, named Nigel living in the hell of 1990’s Derby is barely adequate, fairly unlikeable and yet reaches for the stars. I loved him.
Smitherd is not an author you can settle down and get comfortable with. As soon as you think that you’ve got his number up comes the next book and does a “And now for something completely different” act on you. It is a real talent and here we’ve departed from the supernatural / paranormal influences and yet find ourselves in a dark yet humorous misadventure. It does cut up rough with violence and swearing but it’s quality plotting and writing all the same.
Once again I can’t give Sir Luke a bad review even though I did once again come to this book to bury him rather than praise him. I did not receive a free copy, which is obviously because he hates me, so I was not obliged in any way to give an honest review. I did anyway just to spite him.
"Slow going to begin, but excellent"
I don't know why I enjoyed this as much as I did, I only occasionally felt sympathy for a character that I found to be a complete tool. But his gradual progress kept me going. However when things started getting (very) dark, and the story began to go completely off the path I was expecting it to go, I couldn't stop listening. Often clapping a hand to my eyes or mouth at some new revelation.
Thanks for another great listen.
"Just read it, you won't regret it."
Brilliant characterisation, a protagonist who is equal parts Patrick Bateman, David Brent and Bruce Wayne. Rooted for him, pitied him, hated him in a rolling cycle throughout the story.
Builds up character over the first third, but be prepared to listen to the majority in one go, just ten more minutes rapidly became two hours. Really well read too, I've never found 'manic glee', rage or delusion as easy to picture. Awesome.
starts off jovial then comes the turn... effing brilliant book the first book to make me actually say "no....no way" 10/10 would recommend
"very funny, then VERY dark. loved it."
already a Luke Smitherd fan having read most of his previous stuff. this doesn't disappoint.
great story, very funny but gets super dark, super quickly.
another excellent LS short epic!
"You too can be a crime fighting vigilante"
Having read an advanced readers copy of the book I was also given the opportunity to listen to the audible version & being an avid audio book fan leaped at the chance. I'll admit I'm biased, being a Brit it's always nice to listen to a fellow Brit reading the story instead of the normal round of Americans.. I enjoyed Luke putting passion into his superhero voice & the apparent ease of his drunken rambling.
Without adding spoilers, the part of the book where we moved from the early humour into the darkness & horror of tragedy was really well done for me.
Keep up the great work Luke (& keep narrating your own books)
I was unsure when I bought this book but within minutes Luke had me hooked. It kept me interested and really was riveting with its plot with the unusual title and subject. The ending is brilliant and disturbing but well done to Luke for a fantastic read.
"Diary of a vigilante, read by the vigilante"
I read this book on my kindle and have since listened to the audio on my ipod whilst running. Let's just say I ran a lot further than I would have because I wanted to keep listening!
The story is gripping and as you would expect from Luke. It's an original story of a wannabe superhero from his point of view written as a diary. Having read the book first I was interested as to how this style would transfer to the spoken word, it transfers very well, basically were having the author read his diary entries out aloud and Luke puts in a great performance, especially the last few chapters where the emotion goes up a gear I think Luke nails it.
You have to be exposed to this story and the audiobook in my opinion is the best way to do it. It's got a sting in the tale which you probably won't see coming until it arrives and definitely provides plenty of scope for a sequel.
I really hope Luke does revisit this character soon!
"Love Like Smitherds books."
I've listened to everything that Luke has written.
Lukes narration adds to the story. Long may he continue to self narrate.
His wonderful story lines are far ranging and really off the wall. This one was a little gruesome but still fantastic. I would recommend The Stoneman first. looking forward to the next book at the end of the year.
Well done Luke. Keep them coming
Great stuff! I don't want to give away a thing. If you like Lukes other stuff then jump straight in. Binged on the whole thing in a day.
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