From Publishers Weekly
Since Trainspotting, heroin chic has certainly put down literary roots?sometimes it seems that you can't be a hip writer unless you know your way around a needle. Perhaps none has chronicled the mechanics of addiction in such mind-numbing detail as Australian poet Davies (Absolute Event Horizon) does in this strong if unimaginative first novel: Davies concentrates as much on preferred syringes as on the adventure of getting the smack, which makes the novel seem, sometimes, like Consumer Reports for junkies. The Candy of the title is both the woman that the narrator falls in love with and, of course, the stuff that he takes. Candy's degradation, from beautiful actress to call girl to streetwalker to madwoman, mirrors the narrator's own passage from a sort of smart-aleck cuteness to the monster whose main concern is finding a viable vein to prick. Starting out in Sydney, the couple moves to Melbourne to go straight but, of course, relapse. They engage in a tedious round of finding money and finding smack, in which all other attachments become peripheral. The narrator's habit of viewing these events from a distance strikes the right chord, but it's a monotone, insights notwithstanding: "Veins are a kind of map, and maps are the best way to chart the way things change. What I am really charting here is a kind of decay." The result is a more harrowing than the usual return to a familiar landscape of admonishment and self-negation.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Like Trainspotting, Candy depicts heroin addicts in a British subculture, but it is set in Australia, not Scotland. "Candy" is the slang name of the unnamed narrator's two great loves: his girlfriend and heroin. He introduces her to the drug, and they descend from being high on life, love, and drugs, to being shamed through prostitution, crime, addiction, and recovery. With no character background, the book reads as a string of scams to score money and heroin: some hilarious, some desperate, and some both at once. One scam starts when they answer a ringing public phone that the caller mistakenly believes is a suicide prevention line. Candy and the narrator are ruthless but human; their likableness and the immediacy of their dramas make them sympathetic even when pathetic. The writing is lean and strong but offers no resolution. Although that reflects junkies' reality, sometimes the pacing is jarring as the characters take action long after the audience is ready. Still, the good writing, realistic portrayal, and affable characters plunge readers into the junkies' world, safely returning them with veins intact. Kevin Grandfield
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