Books

Death Watch review: Killer timepieces and the emptiness of consumerism

The darkly satirical Death Watch by Stona Fitch does exactly what it says on the tin – you're not going to want one of these on your wrist

Death Watch

Death Watch by Stona Fitch is darkly satirical in approach, but no less devastating for it. Fitch is a seriously underrated American author who loves to play with the ridiculousness of capitalism and consumerism in the 21st century. Death Watch is literally about a death watch – a timepiece that contains seven blades that could spring out and kill you at any moment. It’s created by notorious artist Watanabe (think megalomaniac Banksy), and our narrator Coe Vessel is the advertising guy tasked with selling it to the world. Coe is told the watches are fake, a joke or experiment to expose modern society, so goes along with it, wearing one himself. But when the watches start randomly killing people for real, he has to fight Watanabe, save the other wearers, and himself. 

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It’s a crazy premise but Fitch sells it to the reader with aplomb. It’s no coincidence that the worlds of modern art and advertising collide here – where else is the emptiness of modern consumerism so perfectly exposed? Rich hipsters and so-called New Nihilists flock to wear a watch that, because it could kill them, reminds them to live every moment as if it could be their last. This is all perfectly relayed through Coe, a reluctant part of the advertising machine, fatally compromised but still able to see the insanity of the world. Fitch’s prose is razor-sharp, his characterisation refreshing and original and his plotting exemplary. Terrific stuff from start to nail-biting finish. 

Death Watch

Death Watch by Stona Fitch is out now (Arrow Editions, £16)

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