HarperCollins, £10.99, ISBN 0-00-719069-7
Do we need another story about a wussy guy who decides to “take life into his own hands” and generally act like a crazy wuss? We already have that movie Office Space. Do we need Staying Alive? This book doesn’t even capitalize on some Bee Gees gimmick like the cover suggests, it’s a rather straightforward story of wussy clean freak Murray, as narrated by Murray.
Poor Murray. He works in the advertising business where he spends more time cataloguing ice creams and supermarket freezers rather than cavorting with models like he expected to. For readers of Mr Beaumont’s e., they will recognize Murray’s workplace as the one where the rascals Brett Topowlski and Vince Douglas decamped to at the end of e.. Indeed, the rascals make an appearance here and Vince becomes the partner-in-crime to Murray’s oh-so-typical maniac boys-gone-wild rampage all over town. While this book offers closure to the story arc of Vince and Susie Judge-Davis for readers who have read The e. Before Christmas, I’m not sure whether Vince makes a credible antihero in this story. He comes off as a Samuel L Jackson wannabe written by a white guy instead of a genuine badass in his own right. There is something about Vince that doesn’t feel authentic.
Staying Alive sees Murray whining about his girlfriend dumping him for a rich lawyer who has ambition and drive, among a hundred thousand things, until he realizes that he has cancer and therefore only a short time to live. He decides to become more “manly”, but how like a man to decide that the only way he can accomplish this is by breaking things, stealing stuff, and crashing cars. And like Office Space, this story wimps out on being truly dark or amoral by giving Murray a cheesy happy ending instead of having Murray really going over the brink. Unlike Office Space where I can root for the oppressed heroes, I find myself soon becoming impatient with Murray. That guy doesn’t want to help himself, which is very different from being unable to help himself. He spends more time nitpicking things apart and being pessimistic about everything (while hating everybody and everything in the process) that it soon becomes clear that this guy is only happy when he’s down and therefore has plenty of reasons to play the dramatic victim. Murray’s predictable reaction to everything – whining – makes this story very predictable and repetitious. Sure, there are killer one-liners in here, but the relentless one-man victim show overwhelms the funny.
A stereotypical story of typical male rebellion against corporate emasculation, Staying Alive breaks no new grounds. The annoying hero and his routine, however, can break a few blood vessels if the reader is not too enamored with the concept that a “real man” controls his life by doing stupid things passed off as “macho” antics.