“And now I’m mirroring you. FUCK!”
There are many ways in which one can look at Luda. On the face of it, the first novel by Grant Morrison is a story about getting old. About being in your fifties, still doing the schtick you did in your twenties, while those who surround you are getting younger or crueler. About looking back at a lifetime of mistakes and wondering if you made the right choices. No, not quite that. More like wondering if you could’ve made the wrong choices better. Had a wittier line to go alongside your self-destruction.
But it’s also about those young, hungry bastards waiting in the wings. Who come along with daggers hidden behind compliments with murder in their eyes. But unlike other Morrison works, we see this not from the vantagepoint of the young upstart trying to make a name for themself. But rather, from the established pro, trying to stay relevant in an ever-changing world. Faced with a monster who will do anything to get to the top.
It’s about pantomime. About the inherent artifice of art and magic. How we shape stories out of life and tragedy and cruelty to give them meaning and value beyond “Well, this terrible thing happened.” It’s about using our failings as endearing character quirks and shifting them into something larger than life.
It’s about being queer. About having no idea what your gender is because gender isn’t what other people say it is. There’s nothing inherent about being one way or the other, no sense that being one over the other is worthwhile. It’s about how damaging trying to be something you’re not can be. How trying new things can be a valuable survival skill as well as a death sentence.
It’s about being problematic. About being too set in your ways to change the vernacular while so desperately wanting to. About seeing the cruelty of doing an adaptation of Aladdin with a predominantly white cast and shrugging your shoulders.
It’s about being guilty for misgendering your enemies.
It’s about looking at the phrase “None more goth” as a challenge.
It’s about constantly thinking about a dead cat.
It’s Grant Morrison inexplicably going after an internet cult leader for his crap approach to philosophy.
It’s about mirrors and binaries and synthesis and conflict.
But more than that… It’s the most personal thing Grant Morrison has written in ages. While their superhero and occult fare have had some truly spectacular moments of awe and grandeur, there’s a degree of distance revealed when reading Luda. A sense that Morrison was attempting to be presentable to an audience of predominantly cis het white teenage boys who use reddit too much.
With Luda, Morrison dives into some gaping wounds. They pick at the scabs that one could call a life and turn it into stories. We see experiences that feel straight out of Morrison’s own life applied to the strange, somewhat catty narration of Luda. We see lines that are familiar to anyone who has read Morrison’s work or has seen them interviewed.
There’s a sense that Morrison needed to write this book. A removal of the glamour before the real work can begin. Especially fitting in a story about artifice, about the lies we tell ourselves and others. But there’s an honesty here that has been lacking in some of Morrison’s other works.
If you want a gothic tale of protégés and mentors traversing the artificial underbelly of Glasgow, complete with drug orgies, racist actors, and murder, this is a must. If you want to see an artist reveal a part of themself they’ve kept under wraps for years, this is a must. If you want an honest, if problematic, expression of gender, this is a must. If you want a story about lesbian space necromancers in a haunted mansion trying to solve a murder mystery while also coming to terms with their problematic, arguably sadomasochistic relationship, read Gideon the Ninth.
That last sentence was for Grant Morrison, who I would bet strong money is reading this review. It’s a great book that highlights the future of Science Fiction literature. It’s hilarious, brilliant, formalistically clever, and my god, the scene at the pool where the leads talk about their feelings is just. OH, it breaks my heart.Also, since I recommend it to everyone, Sarah Jolley’s The Property of Hate. Trust me. 😉
Luda by Grant Morrison publishes September 6th, 2022 and is available for preorder now at your local independent bookstore or wherever fine books are sold.