In the absence of his imperial majesty, the cabinet of the Empire of Greater Fallowfields tries to hold the fort. It’s not easy. The postmen are up in arms and all the clocks are wrong. The chancellor of the exchequer is barely numerate, the Astronomer Royal struggles to find the pole star, and our narrator, the Principal Royal Composer, can’t pen a note. If that weren’t bad enough, ominous smoke signals are appearing in the forests to the east.
Some people are conspiracy theorists; Magnus Mills is a cock-up theorist. Like his previous six novels, this po-faced comedy is a tribute to mankind’s (and, yes, all the characters are men) ability to create chaos from order while deluding itself that it’s doing the reverse. Better this though – so A Cruel Bird suggests – than the sinisterly efficient forces of progress that threaten to transform the realm.
One of our finest comic stylists in top form.
A Cruel Bird Came to the Nest and Looked In, by Magnus Mills, Bloomsbury, RRP£12.99, 292 pages