Here Comes The Nice - Jeremy Reed

Imagine that you're living in a dystopian near-future London, when the effects from the imperialist adventures of the first decades of the twenty first century are beginning to be felt. By way of contrast, you're emersing yourself in a more congenial decade, working on a book about sixties fashion guru John Stephen. Then, in the course of your daily routine. you meet a character who calls himself The Face and claims to be from 1964. He has a look that appears authentic, that might just have come out of a glossy magazine from the time. He also has knowledge, a deep understanding of the era, that sounds too convincing to be fake.

In Here Comes The Nice, Jeremy Reed traverses the two disparate time frames with skill. The elements in the near-future setting are ingenious, combining the development of technology, the emergence of the underground post-military Blackjacks and the effects of global warming being felt in the capital.

Contrast this with the mod world, centred around the The Scene club in Ham Yard. The descriptions are detailed, containing large amounts of information about Rolling Stones' early shows at The Scene, John Stephen's concept of "The Look" and Carnaby Street and the sartorial preferences of the original Faces. It is to his credit that Reed includes elements of the gay aspect of the early mod scene - certainly the one evoked here - which can often be overlooked in the contemporary retrospective of the period. I particularly  like the recognition of the different strata within the mod movement, from Faces to tickets, which is illustrated in some detail.  Then there are the behavioural points, from how to stand in Ham Yard outside the Scene, to what this particular Face does with a drink and a straw when on the edge of the dancefloor.

I also love the fact that Reed takes a particular open air show in 1969 as marking the end of the sixties. The way he describes the audience that day, their clothes, their attitudes, and how this is contrasted with the descriptions of the early sixties, is masterful.  It illustrates perfectly how the decade moved by quickly,  times changing with hardly anyone seeming to notice - apart from The Face, that is.

The issues that stay with you after reading the book are universal ones.  What is the nature of time? Do some eras live forever? Are some influences so strong that they bypass the linear process? It is no coincidence that JG Ballard, himself no stranger to dystopian and time-related fiction, was one writer who endorsed the book.  He was right to do so.  There are a raft of questions that emerge from this fascinating novel.  And, quite apart from that, it is an entertaining read in its own right, especially if you have an interest in the sixties.

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