What becomes of us when everything we think of as essential to our lives (job, partners, family, community) disappear and all we’re left with is hope? A person’s identity crumbles. He floats terrifyingly free and grasps for something solid. This is the issue at the heart of Anthony Trevelyan’s debut novel “The Weightless World.” It begins with the narrator Steven Strauss accompanying his boss Raymond Ess on a business journey to India. On a previous soul-searching trip, Raymond met a man who invented an anti-gravity machine and he struck a deal to acquire the rights. The potential of such a device is enormous, but is it real? Reality is something at play between Steven and Raymond along their journey because both have secrets. This journey isn’t what it seems and the life they must eventually return to in England will be radically different from what it was before. This becomes a mission on which everything is at stake.
Trevelyan has a very easy to read and engaging prose style. At first, his narrator Steven is totally consumed by managing his older and mentally-delicate boss. Gradually Steven reveals his own insecurities and strangely aggressive nature. During his journey the man he thinks he was unravels as revelations unfold. Steven’s identity is stripped down until he feels “my life was a soap bubble in the breeze, worthless, weightless” and he discovers what’s really important in his life. Their journey takes them to a remote location where the inventor of the anti-gravity machine Tarik Kundra has complicated reasons for remaining so reclusive.
Steven and Raymond’s Indian guide is a highly educated woman named Asha. Her character adds a complexity to the narrative because she questions the morality of the travellers’ mission and the way India is exploited in the modern world. At one point she confronts Steven saying “The whole place, the whole country. India disgusts you. Let me tell you, it disgusts me too. What is India but the world’s whore, the world’s favourite foreign fuck? So exotic, so authentic, so convenient, so easy…” The exploits and in-fighting of the expedition group lead to catastrophic results where it’s the people of the local community who suffer and fight back. Lurking in the background of this story is news of a bombing in Bangalore. There is a continuous theme that the needs of the Indian people are being subsumed in favour of foreign capitalist gain.
“The Weightless World” is a brisk comic-tragedy. The adventure undertaken by the narrator and his boss Ess lead to a surprising, contemplative and ultimately touching ending.
Read an article by the author about his inspiration for writing the novel here: http://curtisbrownbookgroup.co.uk/2015/06/08/the-scientist-a-blog-post-by-author-anthony-trevelyan/