Astro Turf by Matthew Sperling

2 out of 5 stars

Ned feels that he is at a dead end. The bedsit he lives in is a bit of a dump and he has pretty had enough of his job and he has just been dumped by his girlfriend, Grace. She had been fortunate enough to be bought a property by her parents, he cannot see any way that he will get on the property ladder anytime soon. A chance meeting in the street with the trainer from his gym reignites his interest in getting fitter and the Darius suggests that he takes a small quantity of steroids to give him the boost that he needs. Sceptical at first, he reads up about it and decides to take the plunge and buys his first lot over the web.

It takes a couple of weeks, but soon he can see that it is beginning to have an effect on his performance. He can lift more and go longer at the at the gym and the results are beginning to show. He is performing better at his job and bumping into a friend of Grace’s is the beginning of a new relationship. Then he has an idea for a business that could make him a fortune. Using his web skills he registers the website Gear4U and starts to build a campaign to promote the site selling his own bodybuilding products. What could possibly go wrong…

Astroturf is very much a book for blokes, it is full of laddish references and tropes. It is supposedly a funny book, but It barely made me smile when reading it. Ned as a character has a fairly low moral bar in the way he is prepared to take a very dubious line on the law when selling drugs. It wasn’t badly written, and is fairly short and really just a bit meh really.

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  1. Annabel

    Hard to see how this got longlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize!

    • admin

      I know, Annabel. The only reason I can think of is that they were trying to widen the appeal. Not sure that is going to work though.

  2. Pudfish instagram

    I read this recently too. I thought it was an original and interesting idea. I hated the main character, he was so unlikeable, and he did not seem to learn anything from what happened. The prose was good, and the jab at Internet forums was clever and well done. I did not get where the book was going or what it was trying to say but I don’t regret reading it, so I probably liked it more than you. I am a 56 year old woman by the way, so don’t agree it’s only for men. I do have sons who go to the gym a lot so getting an insight into the gym scene was what probably pulled me in.

    • admin

      That is interesting to know, Pudfish. I’d agree that it was an interesting concept, with some novel ideas in it. I didn’t mind the main character being unlikeable as that can add the necessary tension to a story. I think the gym scene appeals to both sexes, however the way that the story develops where he gets very lucky struck me as being very much from a male perspective

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