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Graham Joyce
Viking, 224 pages

Graham Joyce
Graham Joyce was born in 1954 in Coventry, England. He attended Bishop Lonsdale College (B.Ed. with honours), graduating in 1977, and the University of Leicester for an M.A. in 1980. He worked for the National Association of Youth Clubs in Leicester as a youth officer until 1988. The same year, he married Suzanne Johnson, a lawyer.

Graham Joyce Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Limits of Enchantment
SF Site Review: The Facts Of Life
SF Site Review: The Facts Of Life
SF Site Review: Smoking Poppy
SF Site Review: The Tooth Fairy
SF Site Review: The Tooth Fairy

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Matthew Hughes

TWOC is British police shorthand for Taken Without Owner's Consent, and it's what British juveniles get charged with when they are nicked behind the wheel of somebody else car that they've stolen for a joyride. It's what sixteen-year-old Matt was done for after being involved in the taking of a silver-grey Ferrari Testarossa that wound up unhappily for all concerned: Matt's hands are badly burn-scarred and he's on probation, forced to be counselled by Sarah, a probation officer whose unrazored legs don't keep her from popping up in his sexual fantasies; his beloved older brother, Jake, is dead (though he comes around in odd costumes for several unwelcome visits over the course of the story); and Jake's once-beautiful girlfriend, Jools, has had to have her face stitched back together.

Then Sarah sends him off to a wilderness camp for horseback riding and pot-holing down some underground caverns, along with a mohawked arsonist named Amy and the heavily acned but celebrated graffiti artist, Gilb. At that point the plot thickens, because it's clear that our Matt's not the type to be reformed by an exhilarating gallop in the fresh air, a bonding experience at an underground lake, and a lot of how-do-you-feel nattering back at the lodge.

Or maybe it's not all that clear. Graham Joyce has allowed the young twocker to tell this tale in his own voice, and Matt could serve as a textbook example of an unreliable narrator. He believes he's being quite straightforward, except when he shuts up and won't (or can't) say anything, and he's puzzled by the fact that everyone who knows him keeps referring to him as a pathological liar.

The discrepancy is important because this is one of those tales that peel like an onion, layer by layer, until you get to the core and encounter a startling revelation that illuminates all. Graham Joyce handles the process very deftly, as should be expected of a World Fantasy Award-winning author of novels for adults. Evoking rather than describing the agony that Matt keeps hidden, even from himself, Joyce works up to a well sprung surprise.

To this reviewer, a veteran of the wars that result from raising three relentlessly nonconformist teenage males, Matt's voice rings true, both in his conflicted reactions to the people with whom he shares his life -- including dead Jake -- and in his tortured relationship with his own survivor-guilt. The story peels nicely, as the young car thief takes his newfound mates, the arsonist and the tagger, out of the wilderness and into town for a high-speed trip down memory lane. Their night-journey brings them to a derelict railroad tunnel where, of course, the original business with the Testarossa put a permanent ironic underlining beneath the "joy" in "joyriding." And there the truth comes cathartically spilling out, and Matt is finally able to face what happened (and, just as important, what didn't happen). The upbeat ending seemed a little pat, but this is, after all, a story for young teenagers (twelve and up, says Viking), so an attempt to end on a note of stark tragedy surely wouldn't have survived the first edit.

One question arises, this being a review for the SF Site: is the novel really speculative fiction? No space squids appear, nor any zombies or vampires. There is a ghost, but since the narrator is clearly unreliable, Jake's intermittent appearances in improbable costumes (including Arnold Rimmer's red gingham dress and pigtailed wig from the "Quarantine" episode of Red Dwarf), argue for their being a guilt-induced hallucinations rather than true revenances from beyond the final curtain.

But, ultimately, the answer doesn't matter. Regardless of genre category, TWOC is a good story, ably told, and if it warns off just one kid from learning how to crack open and hot-wire a Testarossa in under a minute, then Joyce's work is done.

Copyright © 2007 Matthew Hughes

Matthew Hughes
Matthew Hughes writes science fantasy. His stories have appeared in Asimov's, F&SF, Postscripts and Interzone. His novels are Fools Errant, Fool Me Twice, Black Brillion, and Majestrum. The first chapter of his new novel, The Spiral Labyrinth: A Tale of Henghis Hapthorn (Night Shade Books, September 2007), is on his web page is at

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