Sepultura by Guy Portman is an adventure in writing for Portman. The author bends a lot of rules as far as the mechanics of English. The novel is an adventure in reading as the reader constantly tries to figure out who some of the characters are. In tandem with this, Portman makes liberal use of a street-level British vernacular. This novel offers much to the education of readers without knowledge of this language form. Main character Dyson Devereux is probably immoral and definitely amoral as he goes about justifying his killing of other characters who give him problems. The descriptions of the killings are graphic as are descriptions of sex scenes which are obviously power, not sexually, motivated.
Portman has his hero, Dyson, rename his colleagues and characters whenever Dyson’s perception of the named character changes. Dyson is the chief of the Burials and Cemeteries Department of the Paleham Council, England. This seems to be a monstrous bureaucratic institution designed so that there is no clear sense of responsibility on the part of anyone for anything. Skilled players are never accountable. Dyson takes advantage of this to expand power into an area where none is needed, Burials and Cemeteries, so that he can feed his monstrous ego. There are never enough despicable deeds to feed such a horrible character. Although Dyson is the chief of Burials and Cemeteries, he has only one person under him, Goth. Goth is not his real name but Dyson calls him that due to Goth’s insistence on wearing all black and accomplishing whatever daily task assigned with a dour, frequently frowning, expression. Dyson even renames him Sullen Goth, a name that will be retained through most of the story.
Dyson fascinates readers as he devises many schemes, criminal and immoral, to advance himself. No reader will like him. Think Hannibal Lecter on steroids. Description of a plot in this story is almost unnecessary and might vary in description from reader to reader. This five-star Amazon read revolves around two things, the actions of Dyson and the creative use of language to tell the story.
The creative language use began on page one and irritated me so much I almost abandoned the novel. Still, the bureaucratic bumbling described as Dyson tried to rent a car kept me engaged and by page ten it became obvious what Dyson (through Portman) was doing. Dyson used “it” to name whichever character irritated him most at the moment. This passage illustrates: “Further down the counter, behind a computer, is a fat female staff member. Someone in the queue enquires as to why it is not serving customers. Eyes fix on their accuser. A rebuke barked in Italian explains how it is far too busy to serve customers,” (Kindle locations 16-17). When Dyson shows up for work at Paleham Council, Department of Burials and Cemeteries, he surveys workplace colleagues; those other than Sullen Goth, his only employee. Dyson observes a department employee who considers himself at least an equal to Dyson and is dedicated to establishing superiority over Dyson. That is not going to happen. Dyson describes: “Up ahead is a gluttonous carcass, slouched over its desk, gorging on a McDonald’s McMuffin. I wonder how it survived the first wave of redundancies. Here’s hoping that it gets swept away in the second wave. Or maybe it is immovable and here to stay. I will give it a wide berth (Kindle location 71-73).
Dyson doesn’t just use “it” to describe characters. Many times he will use a phrase to describe his assessment of them. The phrase might change as his evaluation becomes more refined. The character might even briefly become “it.” The offices surrounding Dyson’s contain P-P-Priscilla, named for her stuttering. She will later become Groundhog Day because of her habit of telling the same story each day to the same people. She has no recollection of doing this. There is a woman too old for her skirt, identified as Inappropriate Short Skirt. The “it’ of McMuffin fame is Bryan, an acting strategic director and nemesis of Dyson’s. He will retain the title “it” for much of the novel.
Here is a passage that illustrates the vernacular used. As part of his job, Dyson must occasionally visit cemeteries. On one visit to a cemetery built over a former Great Plague site, Dyson speaks with two gravediggers. “The top of a head is peeking out from between piles of freshly dug earth. ‘Haur comes th’ big man,’ says Angus when I walk over. There is a second person in the grave, spade in hand. ‘Hou’s aw wi ye?’ says Angus. ‘Not bad. You have new teeth.’ ‘Aye, nu wallies.’ Angus removes his dentures with an earth-stained paw and holds them up towards me. A trail of drool is hanging from them (Kindle locations 145-148).
This novel is bursting with tongue-in-cheek dark humor about bureaucrats and their inefficiencies but it does not exempt comments on issues of the socially ridiculous. A man calls Dyson to inquire about where and how to bury a relative. “‘My aunt a-hhh needs an a-hhh alternative a-hhh eco-casket.’ I open the database and locate the details for EcoRest. ‘Got a pen?’ ‘A-hhh yes.’ ‘0-2-0-8-7-4-3-6-5-8-7. I repeat 020-8743-6587 … Which eco material did you have in mind for the casket …? Cardboard … Bamboo?’ ‘Hhh. Pineapple leaves.’ Once my nation ruled the waves, now its populace is reduced to pineapple-leaf death receptacles. Eco funerals are all the rage these days (Kindle locations 77-82).
This review takes material from the first 6% of the book. I read the entire novel and did not care for the ending. It doesn’t matter, this novel is so good throughout that it deserves five Amazon stars and a highly recommended rating. It will appeal most and greatly to fans of dark humor, an appreciation for snappy comebacks in dialogue (to include puns) and to those who can see the ridiculous nature of ever-expanding political correctness. Professional architects of micro-aggressions will be disappointed as they see their skewed perceptions of social justice taunted.
I liked the book and will read more from Guy Portman. I received a complimentary copy of the book from the author via Voracious Readers Only. At USD 3.99 on Amazon, it is worth the price.