The Young Dictator – Rhys Hughes


**My gestalt real-time review of THE YOUNG DICTATOR by Rhys Hughes will appear in the comment stream below as and when I read this novel.**

A book purchased by me via Amazon UK and received today.

Pillar International Publishing Ltd.

All my previous reviews of Rhys Hughes works linked from HERE.

My previous reviews in total linked from HERE.

14 thoughts on “The Young Dictator – Rhys Hughes

  1. Pages 1 – 22
    “Then Gran walked with her to the train station and waved at her when the train began moving and shouted, ‘Don’t forget it’s better to be feared than to be loved!'”
    You know, reading this story so far and its supple language has made me feel as young as I was when I was 12 and very very British, rather than Brutish as I am now. This is the story of Jenny Khan, a 12 year old girl who – with the help of her Gran, and later the Queen herself – is voted into Parliament at a by-election where she visits – and then returns from – some Whovian underworld that helps her become the land’s Dictator.
    This engaging book starts Satirical, Machiavellian, Absurdist and Conceitful, but something else, too, the nature of which I have yet to decide…

    [Whether intentional or not, a similar girl named Jane Turpin (who appeared in a series of now old and wonderful books by Evadne Price in the mode of a female ‘Just William’) could well have been reincarnated into just this situation by extrapolation, but now with my being a boy reader again, I’ve never heard of the word ‘extrapolation’ nor probably has this book… And you may see me as that boy in the header to this blog from time to time!]

  2. Pages 22 – 34
    “Jenny squeezed the plum.”
    But was the squeeze worth the juice? Things start unravelling in Britain’s near future with exchange rates and Middle Class rebellion. And statues grinding to a halt. But Gran and Jenny look to the stars…
    So ends the first chapter entitled ‘Jenny Khan’ that first appeared as an irresistible taster for this novel in the BFS Journal over a year ago and from where I first reviewed it here.
    From this point onward, as a reader, I shall be making my entrance – that I have been anticipating for some time with some impatience – into uncharted waters…

  3. Pages 34 – 48
    “Don’t worry about it. Details like that aren’t important. The thing that really matters is the big picture…”
    These pages are the start of a chapter entitled ‘Genghis Kan’t’.
    And the big picture here is taking Rhys-Hughesian fictionatronics one level further from his previous books – on into that element I was trying to locate yesterday – not laugh-out-loud but gulp-out-loud: the reader (if I am typical of fellow readers) experiencing being turned into an alien below the book’s glass ceiling (a glassory? a granary?) for long difficult words not to impinge DOWN upon the readers while, paradoxically (‘paradox’ is paradoxically explained in the book BELOW the glass ceiling), Jenny and her Gran seek the best way UP to the stars with the help of a real alien.
    Like some of the characters, the words have masks, too.
    “‘When I was young,’ added Gran, ‘stupidity was something so rare it had to be dug up from mines.'”

  4. Pages 48 – 51
    “To disguise something, you don’t need elaborate preparations.”
    You know, I wrote this HERE about Rhys Hughes’s story ‘Celebration Day’:
    [[“A Heath Robinson’s Heath Robinson. A brainwright’s brainwright. A logician’s … yes, that is it: a logician’s logician. Involving a playful, child-like, rarely childish, logic of a logician who needs, in his soul, to explain the literal: especially where the literal literalness when taken literally is tantamount to nonsense without his attempts to turn the gears towards something he can accommodate even if that means stretching his (and our) mind beyond its bursting point. Creating something more worthwhile, even if that means sometimes skirting unwelcome, often unacknowledged, forces that make fiction into magic or something even more dangerous than magic. Into something more real than reality itself. ”That’s the only logical explanation.”]]
    This new book so far seems to take that child-like ‘effect’ to its optimum, especially where this book is probably intended for 12 year old readers as well as 112.
    And, meanwhile, I know someone who has a strange neighbour keeping an old caravan in his front garden under a shoddy tarpaulin, something which he never appears to need to use…so far. And despite many complaints as to its unsightliness, it has been there, it seems, at least forever! I will now never look at him or that caravan with the same eyes again.

  5. Pages 51 – 69
    “That night, Jenny slept so deeply that she felt she was right at the bottom of her dreams, like a diver on the seabed, and she gazed up at all the dreams drifting above her head. ”
    The book has not yet explicitly mentioned my ‘glass ceiling’ but I still believe there is one in the book… A glass ceiling whence our disbelief is suspended.
    Like the space travel hopping by Jenny Khan and her Whovian Gran in a spider-piloted house along with the spear-carrier alien who dies a skeleton-cartoon death… Only to find that the democratic space federation has become a dictatorship under Genghis Kan’t… Jenny (Genny) Khan’t, or Immanuel Kant, I ask myself? Jenny’s surname sounds as if she may be of mixed blood? Hmmm. Her parents are certainly not sympathetic characters. But no spoilers here.
    That aside, there is a very interesting conceit in this section that may have significant effects on physics or Kantian philosophy or the whole of our human life amid, say, global warming. If a bad thing is done badly (like, here, the world badly melting so it doesn’t melt at all), then the outcome is good? Like a bad book being done badly, does it become a good book? [cf Weirdtongue and the Narrative Hospital.] My thoughts, not necessarily those of ‘The Young Dictator’. But then extrapolating that conceit into politics, religion, orientation, gender, race….? Hmmm.

  6. Pages 70 – 89
    “…the kilogram…”
    Gran becomes even more ruthless in her cosmic adventuring with Jenny, including a Platonic Form of inescapable dungeon being imagined to allow escape from an escapable one … Which relates to a new narrative point-of-view on Earth of a girl called Maya whose school project seems to ignite some concern with a Kantian Noumenon regarding weights and measures … As a way to defeat the invasion of Earth by Genghis Kan’t’s forces ….? Intriguing. This being the beginning of a chapter called ‘Caterpillar the Hun’ (hmm, the publisher’s name is ‘pillar’…)
    All this is above my head, literally! But I’m enjoying it. It may not be above the heads of the many children who are reading it, though. One day the book itself to be another school project…

  7. Pages 89 – 104
    “…when tentacles are clapped the sound isn’t as encouraging as hands.”
    A new day for me. A thrilling cosmic battle that I fully imagine from the book’s words: this space opera without singers but with Wagnerian width, during a Machiavellian switching of dictators! The strengthening characterful force of Gran in this book, too, with her not necessarily being condescending by explaining every word we readers don’t understand, but perhaps grand-matronising us, nevertheless….
    We also learn the clever ruse behind Maya’s weights and measures Kantian Noumenon scheme to beat Genghis, but no spoilers of the book, except some young readers perhaps who turn down the corners of its pages?
    Most young readers will enjoy the nature of the death of a sympathetic character called Albert, but probably few of the adult readers, I guess, will approve of it. And we learn why this chapter is called Caterpillar the Hun. Again no spoilers here.
    And the chapter ends with one of Rhys Hughes’ best jokes ever! And I have read a LOT of his fiction jokes over the years.

  8. Pages 105 – 121
    “You won’t have any width at all.”
    I won’t spoon-feed you with all the story-lines in this book and how they cleverly interconnect and form a narrative audit-trail, but I will divulge that this new chapter is called ‘Owl Scared Of The Dark’, and that, inter alia, it demonstrates how Jenny is likely to be deemed literature’s Hardest Heroine (in this chapter even more unfeeling and ruthless than her Gran), and that it tells how she now exchanges small talk with the Devil in Hell…and much more.
    Jenny still carries a strong seed of Evadne Price’s JANE from the 1930s and 1940s, but I do suspect that I am the only person in the world both to have read ‘The Young Dictator’ and Price’s JANE and, without trying to contravene Wimsatt’s ‘Intentional Fallacy’ literary theory, I am 100% sure that Hughes himself has never read JANE either.

  9. image

    Pages 121 – 138
    “You are a very wise and sagacious ruler!” / “What does ‘sagacious’ mean?” / “Er…it just means ‘wise’, your majesty.” / “So there was no need to say it twice, was there?”
    There is a poignancy there, and it is up to you, dear fellow reader, or down to you, whether you deem this section of the book poignant or objectionable. A vision of a living Fascbook (sic or sick?) where, via a mechanical rather than electronic computer, History’s dictators meet and vie. A Brueghel of skeletons or inner demons. And our Queen stooping to be knighted or benighted herself.

  10. Pages 139 – 155
    Jenny always ate her dessert first, as a starter,…”
    A new chapter: ‘The Cat That Chilled The Scene’.
    It has just struck me that ‘desserts’ is ‘stressed’ backwards.
    And Jenny has given up Fascbook, as I gave up Facebook for good about five months ago. Rhys’s updates are among those I miss most, but even that fact will not tempt me back.
    It seems appropriate that today is the actual 65th birthday of the Prince of Wales, and, in my reading of this book on the very same day, Old Young Eyes is found mouldering away in Buckingham Palace. Perhaps such a synchronicity hints at whom we always knew to be the REAL Prince of Wales…?
    And, Jenny’s beloved pet cat, Chairman Meow, becomes his own Dick Whittington. Meow meets Maya.
    Gran returns from her cosmic journey… “Crush and dominate!” – A duel of fame?
    And Jenny herself becomes bored and seeks adventuring again…
    All very satisfying.
    “So much fun to insult celestial objects!”

  11. Pages 155 – 171
    “The palace is giving birth!”
    Today is born, young as yesterday yet tall as tomorrow. And I read on in this rawly youthful yet enticingly mature novel. Here, Jenny shows her warmer side, her loyalty to her driver Tubbs*, as she fights the skargills (and this also being a ‘political’ novel, old Margaret’s foe King Arthur came to my mind here, as now explicitly hinted at ‘beneath the ground’) – and there are now thrilling Heath-Robinsonisms and Whovianisms of fantastic battle, alliances and contra-alliances as well as cool stand-offs: Godzilla Meow and Mayan inventiveness. Cutting losses as well as victories.

    *I wondered if this related to EC Tubb the prolific Dumarest quest writer who once wrote a story called ‘Little Girl Lost’ about a girl called Ginney. Also, I recently reviewed another book (here) where a small girl character showed loyalty to her driver. Literature is full of synchronicity, rarely cause-and-effect. And I have just recalled that Evadne Price’s JANE had dealings, in one or two of the books, with Adolf Hitler and his Nazi cohorts. Mussolini, too.

  12. Pages 172 – 187
    “‘Maybe it’s just the way the shadows are moving over my face,’ said Jenny with a smile.”
    As Jenny hopes for a quieter life in this clockwork coda to the book, she returns to Mum and Dad … and these scenes — although just as imaginative and conceitful and constructively meaningless as the foregoing, with a robot made from unused matchsticks (not, to my mind, dissimilar from an escaped inner-skeleton, a live model of her Mum or is it Gran in disguise?) — make me feel nicely poignant all over but destructively meaningful again. As with the crucifixions in the previous chapter, this final chapter (‘Moonmoths, Umbrellas and Oranges’) is not only politically incorrect but also unpolitically correct. My own children, when they were young, would have loved it. They’d still probably love it now even though they have become grown-up. I’ll ask them when they have wound me up again.

  13. Pages. 187 – 205
    “The art of playing is the highest human accomplishment.”
    And thus this book, too.
    Seriousness ever struggles with playtime, as it has done throughout this review. And seriousness lost.
    Don’t teach your grandmother to suck eggs….
    The ending is either twofold or a pair of alternatives from which to choose – with Jenny no doubt finding her own version of my glass ceiling under the ocean or bursting through the head of the universe itself, beyond even the confines of the Book of Gran itself.


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