Michael Morrissey’s much-publicised battle with bipolar disorder was always going to shadow this, his first major work since a documentary and memoir on the experience of that illness. Anyone who thought it may have driven this remarkable and prodigious creative talent to writing about bleakness and despair will be relieved: Tropic of Skorpeo is vivid and fast-paced, the direct opposite of the paralysing greyness that constitutes depression.
Juraletta of Venera is all set to marry the (c)rusty old Fissionable Duke (he exists on a diet of heavy metals) when a chance trip to the Outside sees her run into the rather dashing Rhomeo. Her heart and all four breasts are quite aquiver: follow the route chosen for her or chase the seductive but rather fey and also betrothed heir to another planet? What’s a girl to do?
With its endless literary wordplay, Skorpeo reminds me of Jasper Fforde’s books, and also of Lewis Carroll and Thomas Pynchon as if seen on a Hunter S Thompson acid trip.
The plot, as such, has a plethora of parallel plots that slowly weave together; the characters, although utterly fantastical, do find themselves weighing up Shakespearean-type moral dilemmas. It is, at times, hilarious, often very sexual, occasionally puerile, undoubtedly clever. And the story, as much as there is one, romps along. But I have to say I just found it too over the top, as if Morrissey has injected every last adjective he can think of – and often three or four at a time – and combined them with as many puns as he can muster. Indeed, some of the material feels like it’s been crowbarred into the theme and style.
As Abraham Lincoln was supposed to have said: “People who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they like.” Me: not so much, I’m afraid.
TROPIC OF SKORPEO, by Michael Morrissey (Steam Press, $30).
Michael Larsen is a writer and reviewer.