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The Book of Dave: A Revelation of the Recent Past and the Distant Future

3.55  ·  Rating Details ·  2,598 Ratings  ·  299 Reviews
When cabdriver Dave Rudman's wife of five years deserts him for another man, taking their only child with her, he is thrown into a tailspin of doubt and discontent. Fearing his son will never know his father, Dave pens a gripping text part memoir, part deranged philosophical treatise, and part handbook of "the Knowledge" learned by all London cab drivers. Meant for the boy ...more
Hardcover, 496 pages
Published November 14th 2006 by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (first published 2006)
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MJ Nicholls
Note: This review was written on Aug 19th 2007 when the writer was a doe-eyed yoof of twenty.

Were2guv? The Island of Ham?

The latest doorstopper from the Prometheus of contemporary storytelling Will Self is a work of catatonic, lucid and breathtaking speculative fiction, alternating between a post-apocalyptic world governed by gibbering Cockernees and a present post-9/11 London, blighted by gibbering Cockernees.

The Book of Dave is built upon the idea of what might happen were a bigoted, repulsive
...more
Milan/zzz
Oct 06, 2011 Milan/zzz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nongenre, dystopia
Oh my Dave! What on earth was this???
- “We nú viss woz cummin…”
- Sorry?
- “U awl no viss, U muss taykup ve nú wä aw Nú Lundun wil nevah B bilt. U muss follo ve Búk aw U wil leev Am…”

OK this definitively is not printing error which is what I thought when I suddenly found myself stuck in the landfill of incomprehensible combination of crippled words (that seems to have some remote connection with English) and numbers which then supposed to have some actual meaning. Which supposed to be the languag
...more
R.
Dec 20, 2008 R. marked it as to-read
Recommends it for: myself
I've had this book for nearly a year two three years, now. I have started it twice five six times. It's not Will's fault I get distracted.

But it is Will's fault that he cribbed (read: ransacked) Russell Hoban's Riddley Walker, which I couldn't get through...

Speaking of distractions, in the middle of writing this unreview, some kid knocked on the door looking for his dog. After I went through a brilliant comic monologue describing all the dogs I had seen that day ("This big, gray...this big, bla
...more
Sarah (thegirltheycalljones)
One of the most difficult yet interesting read I've ever had!
No ratings as it's been 5 years I'm reading it (no shit), keep stoping and keep going back to it, because this book hurts my brain so much that I can't manage to stick to it for too long...but it's definitely NOT a bad book, quite the contrary.
I thank myself occasionally about picking this one in french for a change, because I can't imagine how tough it would be for me to read it in english - considering that it's already hard in my ow
...more
Michael
Mar 27, 2009 Michael rated it really liked it
Shelves: eschatology, biopunk
A bigoted, misogynist bastard of a London cabbie buries his angry manifesto, and 500 years later the book becomes the basis for a new society after the fall of civilization. This was a very interesting book, and Self builds an interesting future world. This is NOT, however, an easy book to read. Present and future chapters alternate, and the Daveists speak in decayed phonetic Cockney English. In fact, I had a lot of trouble with the unfamiliar British slang, although I probably pieced together m ...more
Trudy
May 24, 2016 Trudy rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book. It is a strange, sad satire about a London cabdriver who becomes mentally unhinged when his wife leaves him for another man and puts a restraining order against him. Dave starts really losing it when he feels he is losing his beloved boy. Although Dave is a sympathetic character and we root for him, it begins to be clear throughout the novel that he was also abusive towards his wife and son. His violent rages make him go through cycles of guilt, despair and uncontroll ...more
Dane Cobain
Apr 25, 2016 Dane Cobain rated it really liked it
I had to read The Book of Dave as part of my London in Literature course when I was studying creative writing at Roehampton University. It was a good book, and a great introduction to a new style of writing that I’d never really come across before, a sort of gonzo–futurism where Self is able to use the passage of time as a catalyst for a rethought approach to life, society and religion.

Effectively, the Book of Dave is a written document by a London cab driver with high rage levels and a mental i
...more
James
The Book of Dave isn't here to make your life as a reader easy. It's a book that kicks sand in the face of the casual, more easily distracted, reader. I first started it back in 2008, and I wasn't focused enough. The book became harder and harder to follow. So I gave up, less than a quarter of the way through, and popped it back on the shelf. Since then it has sat there, like a guilty secret, a book by one of my favourite authors – unfinished. Calling to me, mocking me, asking me if I felt happy ...more
Matt Harris
Sep 20, 2008 Matt Harris rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: particularly cabbies, actually
Yew mus read viz buk, or b trussed up az moto slorterd on a flying charj...

Weird and wonderful, this tale starts as two disparate threads of narrative, seemingly nothing connecting save the odd word or concept here or there. Dave, our humble cabbie, present day London, like many cabbies holds the runs of streets and points of interest in his mind. Runs and points. His life unravels around him as a tale of urban dysfunction, but his Knowledge of London helps somehow. Dave's narrative voice slips
...more
Leo Robertson
May 17, 2015 Leo Robertson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Only read the "Dave" parts on the re-read as they were of interest to my writing :) but I might add star #5 back on once I read (all the way through) AGAIN, which would be read #3!! That's how dense and interesting this book is.

But not without its flaws. I can tell that a lot of the fun of this book is supposed to arise from drawing the parallels between Dave's world and the After Dave world (or whatever it's called) but I didn't find the After Dave world compelling enough to deconstruct. But ma
...more
HB
Feb 02, 2014 HB rated it liked it
Two stories based on one man, this book is long and depressing and then sort of softly gut-punches you at the end. One half of the chapters are devoted to Dave Rudman, a London cabbie who has very little ambition and few hierarchical needs until he accidentally fathers a son after a one-night stand. Apathy gives way to bemused ambivalence which slowly evolves into parental love at best and narcissistic obsession at best, before spiraling into manic depression, which is where the storylines start ...more
P J
Sep 21, 2011 P J rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
I confess myself sometimes irritated by provincials. Their inability to understand a simple rule like standing on the left on escalators, upon occasion drives me nuts. But Will, London is not the centre of the Universe and sometimes Londoners instinctive assumption that it is, is irksome mate. Because of its post-Apocalyptic setting and its phonetic dialect spelling The Book of Dave unavoidably puts you in mind of Hoban’s Riddley Walker, but then Self openly acknowledges this debt. Self’s is a d ...more
Beth
Sep 07, 2009 Beth rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I'm putting this on my "read" list with a caveat. I got about 1/4 of the way through and had to stop. I wasn't enjoying it, first of all; I had very little attachment to any of the characters.

Parts of the book, which take place in a futuristic version of London, are written in a phonetic version of Cockney English. It took me several chapters of sllllooooowww reading to get into the rhythm of it. Events switch back and forth between 90s London and London (Lundun) of the future, and you must att
...more
Charles
Apr 16, 2009 Charles rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Language Geeks, Londoners, Cabbies, Dark Tower Lovers
Recommended to Charles by: Read for class
I really enjoyed this book. Many people here and elsewhere have complained about the language being too difficult to understand, I however found it to be very entertaining. Many of the terms employed for everyday objects got a laugh out of me; water is 'evian', breakfast is 'starbucks', etc etc. That being said, the Mokni language isn't exactly easy to read, but if read aloud it isn't a problem in the least bit, and actually grew on me over the course of the book; it was a nice touch of realism, ...more
D.M.
Aug 29, 2008 D.M. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fathers, sons, closet sci-fi geeks...and batty cabbies.
Recommended to D.M. by: Tim Coombs...kind of.
I very much enjoy Will Self, even if I don't understand how he ever got published. When it comes right down to it, he writes science fiction, but he writes it with such intelligence and wit, it's easy to forget that's what you're reading!
This one was my first Father's Day gift, and a perfect one at that. It is a father's tale, in the worst possible way.
Dave is a racist, prejudiced and increasingly insane cab driver in London. After a brutal divorce and separation from his son, he decides to writ
...more
Robyn
Jul 31, 2012 Robyn rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
I just could not get into this book. It didn't draw me in and it did more than turn me off...it made itself purposefully obscure and difficult, practically pushing me away from it!

As I get older, I don't have as much patience for books that make me WORK to understand them. Makes me sound like a moron, I know, but life is too short for me to spend my pleasure time reading a manifesto left behind by a bitter, angry man. Nope. I've got better things to do.

Oh, and in all honesty, I did not finish i
...more
Brian Cowlishaw
Jun 14, 2016 Brian Cowlishaw rated it really liked it
I only give four rather than five stars because I ultimately can't quite get behind the powerful, fundamental scorn for all religion (and, in my reading, for Catholicism in particular) woven throughout.
The basic premise of the book is what drew me in originally, and I just love it. Five hundred years in the future, in a regressed post-apocalyptic London, people take the buried book of a Cockney-speaking cab driver as the basis for their religion and, thereby, for their whole culture. The Book of
...more
David
Mar 11, 2014 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The world in this one is wonderfully imagined and I love the interplay between elements in the past and future. The dialect gave me fits though. I have enough trouble understanding cockney, much less a post apocalyptic version of it. Gave me quite a bit of trouble.
Jane
Finally finished last night - I must say the ending was a let down. And a bit confusing...the 2 churches, the design, the age of the buildings...then the priest....I gather it was all tied to a dislike of organized religion and related back to the PCO, but it was just weird to me.

The book was a tough read, especially for an American. The Mockni becomes easier to read as you go along, but the TERMS themselves often meant nothing to me - British slang terms that I don't know. Still, the book had i
...more
Mike Steven
Apr 21, 2012 Mike Steven rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another brilliant book by Will Self. In this book a bitter and slightly unhinged London cabbie in the middle of a custody battle writes a book of advice for his son to find and read. He later regrets this embittered rant but nevertheless, hundreds of years later after a natural disaster has destroyed Britain, his book is found and used as a basis to rebuild society. Parents live apart and children spent equal time with each parent with the 'changeover' occuring on Wednesdays, religious leaders a ...more
Juliet Wilson
Jan 14, 2013 Juliet Wilson rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels
This is a brilliant, disturbing, irritating and probably over-long and under-explained book.

Basically two narratives intertwine, that of Dave a un-likeable, misogynist, racist London cab-driver who, since splitting with his wife, is writing down a rant in the form of a book. The second narrative is 500 years into the future, when this book becomes the basis for a new religion as practised by the people living in what remains of London after massive climate change induced flooding. This future w
...more
Richard Gray
Sep 02, 2012 Richard Gray rated it it was amazing
this review helpful




"This book shouldn't exist, but it does, thank Dave"


This is my first experience of Will self and i was completely absorbed. He utilises language and treads where few would dare in a world strangled by political correctness. He then tempers it with a turn of phrase that is so utterly masterful as to create a character who is racist and utterly dispicable in every way yet you find yourself rooting for his redemption and wishing you were the one sitting in his cab while he took
...more
Wendy Janes
Jan 26, 2013 Wendy Janes rated it it was ok
Hundreds of years into the future, people discover a ranting book written by a disturbed present-day bigot, and model their lives around the ‘truths’ it contains. Will Self’s book is told as two narratives, how London cab-driver Dave’s utterly miserable life lead him to write his rant, and how the future race live their lives according to The Book of Dave.

The present-day story is full of brutally honest descriptions of unsympathetic characters, foolish decisions and bad luck. The streets of Lon
...more
lynne naranek
Sep 06, 2007 lynne naranek rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: twisted minds
Shelves: 2007
This is an amazing book. Amazingly twisted. Amazingly disturbing. Amazingly imaginative. Amazingly differently-told.

First and foremost, having a knowledge (not necessarily Knowledge) of London and its environs would be useful to enhance appreciation of the tale. The use of written cockney is really painful at first, but you kinda get used to it slowly. And the switching from "present day" to "the future" at each chapter provides a great way of painting the end result *and* slowly doling out HOW
...more
Mindy
Apr 09, 2008 Mindy rated it liked it
I enjoyed this book overall. It's a sad statement on what survives of humanity many generations into the future -- religious fanaticism and oppression live on and thrive, while rational rules for good living crumble into dust and are lost. It's an interesting take on the post-apocalyptic genre, too -- what would happen if humanity's progress was set back by a disaster, and what was left to cling to as society re-formed itself was a book containing the delusional ravings of a mentally ill cab dri ...more
Julia
Dec 31, 2010 Julia rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Bookmarks Magazine

Will Self's previous fiction, including The Quantity Theory of Insanity, captured modern English society's ills. The Book of Dave, a best seller in the UK, is a similarly imaginative, vitriolic, and what-if criticism of modern culture. Despite its compelling themes, reviewers differed in opinion about the novel's success. While the Minneapolis Star Tribune called it an "utterly enthralling and laser-sharp nightmare of our present and future," others criticized the caricatured males and difficult

...more
Jim
Jun 11, 2011 Jim rated it it was amazing
I would have give it 9/10, but it's more 5 star than 4 star ...

“The Book of Dave” is based around the rants of Dave Roth, a disgruntled East End taxi driver, who writes his woes down and buries them only to have them discovered 500 years after the flood and used as the sacred text for a religion that has taken hold in the remnants of London. Will Self’s big bold book dares to take on the grand themes in the grand manner. It is at once a profound meditation upon the nature of received religion; a
...more
Emma
Sep 01, 2013 Emma rated it really liked it
Not an easy novel, particularly in the beginning stages of adjusting to the Mockni dialect, but once you get your bearings you're in for a real treat. I am a huge Self fan, on the basis of this book and How the Dead Live. I think he is one of our greatest living satirists - or perhaps just one of the greatest, living or dead. His grasp of contemporary lifestyles and mores is breathtaking, and his language soars with unequalled breadth and exuberance.

But even more than this, Self has the rare abi
...more
Mathew
Sep 03, 2016 Mathew rated it really liked it
In this satire of organized religion, a depressed bigoted London taxi driver writes a series of extended rants about his ex-wife and other everyday frustrations. He buries them in her back garden for his estranged son to find, but instead they are discovered in a half-submerged London of the distant future and turned into the national religion. The priests are Drivers, viewing the Passengers of their congregation using rear view mirrors as they intone prayers which are corrupted versions of The ...more
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William Self is an English novelist, reviewer and columnist. He received his education at University College School, Christ's College Finchley, and Exeter College, Oxford. He is married to journalist Deborah Orr.

Self is known for his satirical, grotesque and fantastic novels and short stories set in seemingly parallel universes.
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“For the rest, silence or good music, not much food, a lot of solitude, walks on the Heath, the time to think while others... well, often fall apart. Not so bad, not so bad at all. Being queer and self-sufficient is the best present at this season.” 8 likes
“After all, the Church had murdered itself, as with every decade more and more depressed dubiousness crept into its synods and convocations, until speaking in tongues, it beat its own skull in at the back of the vestry. Divorcees and devil-worshippers, schismatics, sodomites and self murderers -- they were all the same for the impotent figures who stood in the pulpit and peered down at pitiful congregations, their numbers winnowed out by satellite television and interest-free credit.” 3 likes
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