Big Time by Jordan Prosser

Reviewed by Rod McLary

This debut novel by Jordan Prosser falls within a genre named ‘cyberpunk’ – that is, a novel set in a dystopian future with a combination of ‘lowlife and high tech’ and one where society is collapsing into a state of decay.

The setting for the novel is a barely recognisable Australia which, seemingly in the very near future, is divided into the Federal Republic of East Australia [all the country east of the 129th parallel] and Western Australia.  FREA has closed its borders and artistic endeavours of any kind are subject to the Cultural Purification Act which among other things has outlawed Phil Collins’ music; who would have thought?

The narrative centres on the punk band The Acceptables who has toured the country promoting their debut album Artificial Beaches on Every Mountain / Artificial Mountains on Every Beach – and now they are creating their sophomore album.  The key protagonist and ‘leader’ of the band is Julian Ferryman and the narrator is one of those ‘good people, sidelined by history, to tell the stories of those who lifted up by dumb luck and circumstance’ [17].  The good person here is a music journalist who is travelling alongside the band as it traverses through FREA.  Along the way, we also peer into the private lives of the other band members.

A story of a punk band is not complete without illicit substances – and the preferred one to which The Acceptables turn is the new drug F [or more properly known as trypto-lyside glutochromine] which when taken correctly allows the taker to see the future and, the more often it is taken, the further into the future the person sees.  Isn’t this what everyone wants to do at some time?  Perhaps – but the final chapter to this book would soon persuade anyone tempted to reconsider and reconsider quickly.

On one level, Big Time is a road trip where the dystopian world in which the novel is set is laid bare as the band travels through FREA.  Heavy-handed Borders and Migration officers with sniffer dogs invade the band’s tour bus looking for drugs and illicit audio material; International Border Enforcement officials detain airport passengers for five hours while their luggage is meticulously searched – and all mobile phones confiscated; a citywide curfew from 8.00pm.  The descriptions of these incidents are frighteningly intense and immediate.  And on a more personal level, the relationships between the band members gradually fall apart as they travel through FREA.

The personal trajectory of Julian Ferryman – reflecting the dystopian world around him – is not one of growth and maturity but one of self-interest and alienation.  His use of F becomes increasingly frequent and intense – and he sees further and further into the future.  His ‘ability’ to do this is monetised and he is manipulated by those around him.

Novels like Big Time offer us a view of the future and sometimes it is a dystopian world we can see.  While this may be somewhat depressing in itself, the mood can be lifted by the quality of the writing and the characterisation of the protagonists.  Jordan Prosser has crafted a novel in which he depicts ‘a friendship group disintegrating in tandem with the world coming undone around them’ [author’s own words].  He has achieved this well and Big Time is a novel to read and enjoyed – and it comes with its own sound track.

Big Time


by Jordan Prosser

University of Queensland Press

ISBN 978 070226 838 0

$34.99; 384pp


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