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James has lived in the shadow of his best friend Stefan since school. Now, Stefan has it all - looks, money and a cool job. And James has a half share in a slew of naff game show ideas that have yet to see the light of day (Shark Survivor, Natural Selection, Whose Pants Are They Anyway?, Porn Idol). But he does also have Victoria, the girl of his dreams, even if James is convinced that one day Victoria will realise that she can do so much better than him. So James does the unthinkable. He arranges a meeting between his best friend and his best girl. And waits.
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The biggest draw of Natural Selection is the fact that it's the debut novel by Bill Dare--creator of such comedy greats as The Mary Whitehouse Experience and Dead Ringers. Unfortunately, the story itself seems to miss this lofty standard by a considerable distance. The central character, one James Hole, hovers on the fine line between cool layabout and failure. As soon as the narrative begins we are hit between the eyes by his extreme self-deprecation: "Stefan I consider to be damn near perfect--mostly because he is pretty much the opposite of me"--a tactic which one can imagine is utilised to evoke sympathy, but becomes tedious.
James is in his late 20s, but hasn't managed to get his career off the ground since university; he and writing partner Gerard want to make a mint from the game-show business, so they meet and brainstorm over cups of tea and "Silkies". But despite knowing that it's the simplest ideas that work best, the pair spend two fruitless years failing to come up with an original game format to impress any TV producers, or make any money.
Career aside, James's self-destructive behaviour leads him to believe that he's not good enough for the love of his life Victoria. They met at university but it takes them nine years to get together; throughout this time he bumbles around her, in the way that an inexperienced teenager would, becoming obsessed with her. He writes missives about "Victoria's Men" comparing his qualities with her boyfriends' to help the reader see what a struggle it was for him to get his girl, but this better illustrates his low self-esteem, lack of self-confidence and bad timing. With failure ringing in his ears, James sets up a meeting between his "perfect" friend Stefan and Victoria, who inevitably hit it off and begin dating. James hits an all-time low (if that's possible) and ends up penniless and friendless.
Reading beyond his paranoia, James's determination to become more than a friend to Victoria is, at times, endearing. Dare's use of script-style format to engage the reader is effective but makes it easy to fall into the negative thinking pattern of the character. Natural Selection is an entertaining read with a predictable conclusion and features some witty observations on friendships and relationships that we could all relate to. Despite the characters' incessant "isn't-that-just-typical" attitude, it provides an interesting insight into the ups and downs of modern life for this young man. Remember, the glass may in fact be half full instead of half empty. --Angela BoodooReview:
Natural Selection is by turns both funny and sad...I recommend that you buy this book ((John O'Farrell))
Brilliantly funny ((Heat))
Dare's debut novel has you in hysterics...Extremely witty ((OK))
Bill Dare's comedy credentials are impeccable . . . This is classic romantic comedy in which the gags come thick and fast. ((Daily Mirror))
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Book Description Condition: New. New. Seller Inventory # M-0749934263