I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Ivon by Michael Aylwin
Published by RedDoor Publishing Ltd on February 8th 2018
Genres: Fiction, Sports & Recreation
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22nd century England is governed by the PM. So what’s changed? Everything. Because in Michael Aylwin’s England, the PM isn’t the Prime Minister but the Prime Manager. England in 2144 is a land where sport drives politics, economics, and just about everything else.
England in the “Perpetual Era”
Here, fitness is the be-all and end-all of human aspiration. Sport has become a means to generate energy. Even sex has too. (Couples connect to the mains to give the National Grid an orgasm). Sporting achievement equals prosperity. Athletes are put to rest when their useful life is up. Surrounding England is a huge Fence. And on the other side is …
Crude, rude, savage Wales!
In Wales, the “savages” love their sport for sport’s sake. They shout, they cheer, they get emotional. They drink beer. And even have recreational sex.
An Englishman and a Welshman walk into a bar …
The Englishman is super-athletic, super-controlled Dusty. He’s done his sporting duty and has been a monumental energy-generator for his country. But he’s curious. What lies on the other side of the Fence? He does the unthinkable. He travels to Wales. And in Wales he meets Ivon.
Welshman Ivon is the exact opposite to Dusty. Ivon is the midfield genius, the playmaker, the talented maestro. The natural risk-taker who plays rugby from the heart and soul.
Dusty takes Ivon back with him to England.
Let battle commence!
And this is where the book gets serious. Will Ivon show the cold-hearted English what they are missing? Or will he become subsumed into this artificial world? Will Play remain Dead or become Resurrected?
The book becomes a conflict between the past and the future. Between sport as industry or as recreation.
“Ivon” is energetic and dynamic
Fresh ideas and concepts pop up in every chapter. Familiar words are given new meanings. Characters are uniquely drawn. I don’t think I’ve read anything quite like it before. I certainly wasn’t expecting it to end as it did.
The book rollicks along. At times like an out-of-control rugby scrum. Where’s it going? What’s going to happen? To England. To sport. To Dusty and Ivon. To their friendship.
So many questions. And I’m not going to give away any answers. Maybe the author will be more forthcoming? Let’s find out …
Interview with Michael Aylwin
Your concept of a government formed not of politicians but of sports stars has a certain attractiveness to it, especially considering the increasing disaffection with politicians. In reality, do you think this could happen, especially with the rise of the sports celebrity? Could George Weah be the catalyst of something much bigger?
All power to George Weah! Whether or not further sports stars become politicians I’m not so sure, but the premise of the book is to imagine a world where sport has become as ‘important’ as it is possible for it to become, in other words the very engine of society, economically, politically, culturally, etc. ‘Ivon’ is intended as a satire of what happens when sport becomes too important. There’s no doubt it is becoming ever more so in our world, but I think we’d need some sort of seismic shift in society, possibly of apocalyptic proportions, to propel it all the way to where it is in ‘Ivon’. You never know, though. A lot of former sportsmen and women are already basically ambassadors for their respective nations and, as you say, more popular than the politicians – but I suspect it was ever thus. It’s nigh-on impossible to be a politician and popular at the same time.
In ‘Ivon’, sportsmen and women are viewed as assets of value. I guess this is based on the real world of today, where for example footballers are increasingly traded as commodities. You take this further by describing the Perpetual Era where all the “fun” of sport has gone. Is this how you see the evolution of sport? Towards an activity carried out to bring economic value rather than for the athletes’ personal gain or the entertainment of the crowd?
The loss of fun I think is key, or the death of play. The irony ‘Ivon’ tries to explore is that the more important the games become, the more the concept of ‘playing’ them retreats, until sport becomes as deadly serious an enterprise as business or industry is in our world. I do worry about how serious some people take their sport – and it’s far from restricted to the professionals. Few people seem to play sport on a casual basis any more. It’s all or nothing.
I thought your idea of getting 100,000 spectators in a stadium to generate green electricity was fascinating. What gave you that idea? Have you considered patenting it? 🙂
I needed a mechanism by which a community directly benefited from the success of its competitors on the field and which required of everybody that they be as fit as possible. The stadium generators seemed as apt as any I could think of, all the more so given their green credentials. But I do also remember happening upon a brilliant programme on TV a few years ago, where a family were invited to spend a typical Sunday lunch in a purpose-built kitchen, which was powered by a big room full of people on exercise bikes. The family would preheat the oven and forget about it; cut to the exhausted cyclists pleading with them to put the food in. Later, someone would boil a kettle and forget, then go to reboil it – and the cyclists would scream, ‘NOOOO!’ It was funny and poignant and made a big impression on me, but I can’t remember if it gave me the idea, or whether I’d already thought of it by then. Either way, it reinforced the idea. Maybe I should patent it – just in case I can’t make a living out of novels…
The next time you travel to Wales (which you say stands for the “Western Assemblage of Lapsed Era Savages”) will you be going in disguise?
Good question! In my role as a rugby writer, I’m constantly going there. I hope Welsh readers will not take offence. If they read on they will realise they’re the heroes of the story. Most people think I’m Welsh anyway, because my surname contains a y and w in vague proximity.
Despite the acronym, you paint a positive picture of the Principality with its love of sport. It took me back to the 70s and the days of Gareth Edwards, Barry John, JPR Williams, Mervyn Davies etc. Do you hanker for a return to those amateur days when sport was not tainted by high finance?
I’m glad it took you back to 70s Wales, because that’s more or less what I was going for. I wanted to set up as direct a clash as possible between where sport has come from and where it might be going. The Wales of Ivon represents the former and 22nd-century England the latter, and never the twain shall meet, courtesy of a big wall between the two. Ivon is the poor soul through whom the great struggle is fought. I do yearn for the spirit of the amateur days, but anyone who watches footage from those days is quickly reminded that sport wasn’t as ‘good’ as it is today. Standards are so much higher, which is a function of progress and the human spirit to grow faster, stronger, etc. But that very spirit also strips out the romantic and innocent, changing the nature of the pursuit, which is a delicate conundrum for us to consider
Regarding the ending – which I found particularly strong and moving – did you always have this end in mind from the outset?
I did. There was going to be an epilogue, but, when it came to it, it seemed appropriate to leave the book ending the way it does. I liked the final image. I’m not sure a cricket bat has ever been used for that – not literally anyway…
Thanks Michael and I wish you much success with ‘Ivon”
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Thanks to RedDoor Publishing for inviting me on the “Ivon” blog tour.