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Here Goes Nothing


Here Goes Nothing

Australian author Steve Toltz was shortlisted for the prestigious Man Booker Prize for his 2008 novel, A FRACTION OF THE WHOLE, which means he has a special talent for moving words around the page. However, I daresay he has never attempted anything so outlandishly satisfying and timely as his latest release, which is aptly set during a pandemic and ironically titled HERE GOES NOTHING.

To begin with, our humble narrator Angus Mooney is dead. He is not aware of this at first; he just knows he isn’t home at his little yellow abode in Australia with his pregnant wife, Gracie. Once he starts figuring out that he is somewhere else, he will begin to get glimpses of what is going on in the life he has left. Angus is now existing in what he has been led to believe is the afterlife, although it is not like any afterlife he’s ever heard of.

"HERE GOES NOTHING does indeed lay on the dark humor in thick doses... [T]his is highly intelligent reading of the tallest order with much to unpack. "

Meanwhile, Gracie, who has been waiting for two days for her missing husband to return home from whatever bender he must be on, receives a knock on the door from an odd-looking stranger. Calling himself Owen, he claims to have once lived in their house; he is dying and in need of one last look at the place. What Gracie does not realize is that Owen is a doctor who killed Angus in a fit of jealous rage. He has always wanted Gracie from afar, so killing her husband was his nefarious and purely evil way of going about getting her and the house --- with a baby on the way --- all in one fell swoop.

Well, our fearless narrator cannot stand for this. The only trouble is that he’s still trying to figure out this afterlife thing and how, if at all, he might be able to warn Gracie about Owen and his intentions. Unfortunately, even when he was alive, Angus was nothing more than a low-level pickpocket. So he doesn’t have much of a skill set to offer, even if there’s an opportunity to interfere with the land of the living. He will definitely need help.

Angus meets a lot of interesting characters in the afterlife, but none quite like Valeria, who becomes his lover and mentor, helping him get acclimated to this new plane of existence. She even brings him to a post-traumatic death disorder support group, but nothing will replace the hole in his non-life and his inability to help Gracie and their soon-to-be-born child. Gracie misses Angus equally and even resorts to Ouija boards in an effort to conjure him and learn exactly what happened to him.

HERE GOES NOTHING does indeed lay on the dark humor in thick doses, and much of what is covered here is directly out of those Philosophy 101 courses that most readers probably slept through in college. If that does not describe you, hang on for a treat, as this is highly intelligent reading of the tallest order with much to unpack. Steve Toltz is obviously having a ton of fun guiding you on this existential journey, which will pay you back for sitting through those classes in more ways than you can imagine.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on May 6, 2022

Here Goes Nothing
by Steve Toltz

  • Publication Date: April 4, 2023
  • Genres: Fiction, Humor
  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Melville House
  • ISBN-10: 1685890385
  • ISBN-13: 9781685890384