The collected edition of Mick Farren’s DNA Cowboys trilogy is a fascinating social document. You can tell a lot about a time from its bobbins gonzo fantasy novels. And here we have a trilogy, steam written fuelled by drugs, coffee and an urge to write a modern fantasy for its day. It makes very little sense, is narratively uninspiring, and has a shockingly casual misogeny and yet seems much more imaginative and rewarding than 95% of current fantasy fiction. Farren himself is quite unclear why it deserves a reprinting, but I reckon if I had stumbled on it aged fourteen I would have loved it.

The story. Um: after some unspecified disaster the world is split into small communities separated by impenetrable (almost) “nothings”. All of humanities needs are supplied by “stuff central” so the communities are self sustaining. Our heroes (never referred to in the text as the DNA Cowboys) get bored and seek adventure. And find some. And then end up with a sadistic thirteen year old girl looking despot for sex and world taking over.

The whole thing mutates wildly book to book, and its morality is never really clear. And yet the prose and brevity of each of the books (with names like Synamptic Manhunt and The Neural Atrocity someone was reading JG Ballard) makes them a quick read. As does the death toll, incidences of weird sex and attempts at grafting some sort of rationale on it after the fact. It is almost disappointing that it ends with so many loose ends. Almost: as you know any continuation would be in the same vein, but you do get oddly sympathetic to these doofus?s wandering the world and trying to save it. A toking Tolkein then?