HOT NEWS (September 2011): I decided to republish this as an ebook. It is now available in multiple formats on Smashwords and Amazon. The cover was designed by Kit Foster. The rights have reverted to me and the recent riots in England suggest the time is right. Visit the Synchrony Books website for the latest news.
A reader of my novel, Saving the World and Being Happy (The Computer Ager), wrote to me, saying: “Brilliant! Clever, funny, spot-on ideals! An achievement to be extremely proud of!” That got me thinking. Why had I not bothered to post the book’s reviews? Please find them below.
“A delicious mixture of messianic message, wicked satire, sweet romance and utter hilarity…”
“An entertaining and educational work which deserves a wide audience…”
“An avid social observer, Swanepoel mixes Naomi Klein and Michael Moore with Brookmyre and Banks…”
“Maybe even the biggest failures amongst us could actually change things for real…”
“Very clever in his use of satire…”
“A comedy, a romance and a savage indictment of the iniquities of global capitalism…”
“Optimism, an uplifting view of the potential of every human being…”
“Thought-provoking… written with superb style and finesse…”
“Dangerous to the status quo. It offers people a glimpse of hope…”
“Eric Swanepoel’s first novel is a great read. He moves from rite of passage for the individual to rite of passage for the planet in a bold dramatic sweep. This is a funny, thought-provoking and intelligent book. I recommend it to you.”
By the way, the main character (Nathaniel Papulous) becomes an expert at modelling the ageing process. This YouTube video demonstrates the work with which he at one point becomes dangerously obsessed:
Marian Van Eyk McCain wrote in Resurgence magazine:
A delicious mixture of messianic message, wicked satire,
sweet romance and utter hilarity
Why, I wondered, have they given me fiction to review? (And whoever dreamed up that dopey title?) But once I started reading Swanepoel’s novel, I couldn’t stop. His is a new voice, bold, quirky, paradoxically old-fashioned in a twenty-first-century sort of way. I think you’ll enjoy his tale of the introspective, nerdy Nathaniel, whose adolescent obsession with the girl next door launches him on a wobbly but relentless trajectory towards fame, fortune and a global revolution in consciousness.
He`s surrounded by a host of other characters. Some are the author`s lovingly constructed originals, a few are from stock. Others — like the powerful media magnate Bear Mudrock, owner of The Sin newspaper — seem, shall we say, vaguely familiar. Here’s a ripping yarn. Full of atmosphere. It’s a delicious mixture of messianic message, wicked satire, sweet romance and utter hilarity.
Joe Middleton wrote in the Scottish Left Review:
A comedy, a romance and a savage indictment of capitalism
I’m sure we’ve all wondered at times just how effective our political activism actually is. Leaflets end up in the bin or go unread, political speeches of relevance are often never heard and publications like SLR don’t reach a wide enough audience. Often it seems like we’re never reaching the mainstream media at all. Okay, it’s biased as hell but is that an excuse? The question begs itself: is a film by Ken Loach or a song by a band like The Proclaimers actually a lot more effective than half a million leaflets? At this point we probably all think ‘if only I could do some novel that could bring radical politics to the masses’. Well it’s too late to be first, because R. Eric Swanepoel has done it with this one.
Swanepoel’s first (published) novel is the biographical tale of Nathaniel Papulous whose idealistic ‘Hopeist’ movement eventually revolutionises the planet. The book begins with a nicely realised take on adolescent angst and unrequited love. Nathaniel’s obsession with his childhood next door neighbour, Rosemary, transforms his whole life. His attempt to create a generated image of her leads him towards an interest in computers, mathematics and eventually to doing a PhD in the study of ageing. These studies lead him to the conclusion that ageing is mostly caused by poverty, a revelation which will later substantially shape his live.
Initially however, he is persuaded to cover up his findings and he begins a lucrative life of affluence. This is interrupted by a horrific car-crash, which ironically leads to him finally winning the heart of his beloved Rosemary. Our star-crossed lovers are united only to be swiftly divided by a frightening kidnapping. This crisis forces Nathaniel to re-evaluate his life and he resolves with a small group of college friends to try and change the planet.
Inspiring, sensible and realisable project
The book is a comedy, a romance and a savage indictment of the iniquities of global capitalism. Swanepoel has managed to combine a funny and readable novel with a highly researched analysis of global economics. His characters are astutely drawn and realistically motivated in an ingenious narrative. His political activist’s dream manifesto comes to fruition in the final chapters and it is an inspiring, sensible and realisable prospect.
All in all, the novel is an entertaining and educational work which deserves a wide audience. Send it to your friend who you’ve been trying to get to go to a meeting for years and see if it makes a difference!
Gregor Gall wrote in the Scottish Socialist Voice:
Happy is as happy does
Could this be the first of many? A novel that reflects contemporary radical politics?
Saving the World and Being Happy is an anti-capitalist novel and a tale of searching for individual human fulfilment. It is fast-paced, lucid and does not just throw stones at capitalists. It actually sees a successful revolt before the final chapter!
Quite a feat, and an uplifting one too.
It tells the story of how a boy becomes a successful scientist.
His childhood is filled with equal measures of self-doubt, romantic crushes, and trying to work out what life is for.
After attending Aberdeen [the reviewer made a mistake: it is “Inverdon”!] university, a series of soul-crushing jobs ensue.
Trying to break out of this, the main character, Nathaniel, does a PhD on facial ageing.
Class, the main determinant of ageing
He concludes that class is the main determinant of the ageing process and longevity.
But offered a lucrative career by a pharmaceutical company, he puts his conclusion to one side and becomes a minor celebrity with his work on developing cosmetic products that allegedly stop women ageing.
Following a disfiguring car accident and a kidnapping, Nathaniel experiences a major turning point in his life.
More than just an interesting novel
He founds the International Hope-ist Movement (IHM). It is here that the book becomes more just an interesting novel. We are treated to a radical political manifesto, expounded through the plot.
The targets are the multinational corporations; The means of action are thought-provoking.
Characters from Nathaniel’s past and current social circles are woven together to provide the shock troops of the IHM. All have consciences that they did not before act upon but these consciences did not go away.
A combination of computer know-how, industrial espionage, kidnapping, and media savvy allows the IHM to carry out a guerrilla campaign which targets major companies. It drives down their share price until they capitulate.
The IHM demands and obtains better wages for their workers, higher corporate taxes paid, union recognition, permanent jobs and environmental and education programmes.
The ‘Big 200’ of multinationals fight back but the IHM plays divide and rule, splitting their emerging capitalist solidarity.
The use of a ‘Boycott Index’ leads to individual multinationals suing for peace.
The penultimate chapter, not just how the world should be according to the IHM but the world set on the path of Hope-ism, is not socialism.
But it’s a world of beginning to meet human need and erode the basis for oppression.
Throughout, the cultural reference points are appropriate and humorous. The play on words and changes of real peoples’ names pointed.
An avid social observer, Swanepoel mixes Naomi Klein and Michael Moore with Brookmyre and Banks, drawing on his left-wing activist background.
Fun, warm, deep
The metaphor of a river is often employed in the book. It was fun to swim in, warm but deep. Take a dip yourself!
From Manchester With Love…
Hayley Goodwin looks at a novel that
is in a genre of its own…
IN “Saving the World and Being Happy (The Computer Ager)”, Manchester-based writer R. Eric Swanepoel [I used to live there] (Yes. that‘s the author’s real name!) claims to have combined politics, romance and comedy in a new genre. Despite these three things being in the top five of conversations to avoid at a dinner party what Swanepoel has achieved is both interesting and unusual.
The story centres around Nathaniel E. Papulous. who at the beginning develops a crush on his new fourteen-year-old neighbour. But being a teenage computer nerd of not too convincing aesthetics means that Nathaniel is left to merely obsess about his unrequited love. The book follows Nathaniel in a basic biography fashion and in spite his slightly off-putting beginning he develops into a relatively normal lad, despite never getting over his childhood crush.
Political, scientific and comedic insights
Swanepoel’s evident education infuses the tale of this middle-class lad with political, scientific and comedic insights taking the novel beyond its unassuming opening. Swanepoel’s breadth of knowledge is perhaps not so surprising considering that he seems to have been an eternal student. Confessing to have “more degrees than sense” Swanepoel is a former veterinarian, ecotoxicologist and English teacher and is competent in the worlds of science, literature and technology, genres all evident throughout the novel.
So too are Swanepoel’s political beliefs that are heavily to the left. Not content to have his protagonist overcome academic mediocrity, survive a near-fatal car crash and win the love of his life Nathaniel also manages to “save the world”.
Nathaniel uses hope-ism, not socialism,
against the multinational corporations that
hold onto the world’s wealth
Setting up the International Hope-ist Movement (IHM), Nathaniel uses hope-ism, not socialism, against the multinational corporations that hold onto the world’s wealth. However far-fetched the events become, and they do become far-fetched, Nathaniel is an interesting and realistic character.
This may be due to the fact that on a number of occasions he seems to have failed, completely, making him more emotive and interesting. Swanepoel’s strengths lie in his vast amount of knowledge that is evident from the opening page of the book.
The happy outcomes of the IHM are explained fully backed up by Swanepoel’s immense knowledge of international economics with brevity that points all too poignantly to the fact that this could be so simple and yet hasn’t happened.
The whole novel culminates to make the reader feel a hope that many other books that challenge the system lack, instead of feeling like we are pawns in the multinationals’ money-making schemes, we feel that maybe even the biggest failures amongst us could actually change things for real. Many of the left leaning press have reviewed this book with praise with one even suggesting that it may help get more people to their meetings.
Action rather than apathy… great author
The book certainly promotes action rather than apathy and this is a tribute to Swanepoel`s excellent literary skills. Swanepoel writes with the sensitivity of a great author and the precision of a scientific master and the result is like nothing you will have read before. This is definitely the book to give your grumbling socialist friend and it’s only £12.50 from the Cornerhouse Bookshop.
Pets and POLITICS
Kristen Lakajis interviews the author of the revolutionary new novel Saving the World and Being Happy (The Computer Ager), Shropshire vet Eric Swanepoel.
It was freezing as I stood on the railway platform eagerly awaiting my I meeting with R. Eric Swanepoel, a Shropshire veterinary surgeon and recently published author. I was more than a little self-aware as I surreptitiously read a copy of his book, occasionally using it to fan myself, hoping to catch his eye as I didn’t have a clue what he looked like! The description I had been given was ‘carrying a red rucksack’ which was only about half the population of Stafford so I had it whittled down somewhat!
Suddenly I was aware of a man hurrying towards me with a suitcase and backpack, and wearing an enormous grin… who else could it possibly be? We exchanged pleasantries and headed off to have a chat in the local pub, this was certainly my kind of interview!
When we were seated, I inquired as to the origin of my interviewee’s name and Eric confirmed that I had indeed been pronouncing it incorrectly. “It’s Swan-a-pool” he stated in his South African draw,l “like duck-a-pond!” and his face broke into the now familiar smile of the comical yet intense literary genius.
Born in Scotland, Eric and his family moved to Zimbabwe, then Rhodesia, which is where he grew up, and later the family moved again, this time to South Africa. It was the experience of these countries that gave Eric his love of wildlife and the outdoors, and also help shaped his views on the political world. Being embroiled in a society openly pursuing the apartheid regime, it is easy to envision where much of Eric’s ideals sprang from.
Eric dreamed of being a conservation scientist and was advised to do a veterinary course to establish a scientific background and then to further specialise in his chosen field, which is what he did, choosing Aberdeen for his veterinary degree [No, I did my veterinary degree in Pretoria and my MSc and PhD at Aberdeen] and then following it up with a PhD in Ecotoxicology. Eric had always written but, due to his father’s successful career as a scientist, was pushed more towards a life of science [I was never pushed; it seemed the natural choice].
Eric regularly travels back to South Africa to visit his parents, as well as returning to Aberdeen and to Paris, where he lived for several years and where the bulk of his novel was conceived. He now divides his time between his home in Manchester and the practice where he works as a veterinary locum in Telford.
Having had several short stories and travelogues published in literary magazines, Eric was already an adept writer when he compiled his third book Saving the World and Being Happy (The Computer Ager) although it is his only book to have been published… so far. I both hope and feel the release of this book may result in a writing frenzy of similar works.
The novel is technically a work of fiction although it is heavily laced with Eric’s ideals and views, as well as some of his own experiences, such as the element of unrequited love, and is liberally drenched with satire. Eric describes his work as a totally new and revolutionary genre, and I must say I whole-heartedly agree, this is not a novel to drown humanity in a torrent of politics, it is more a light-hearted account of the way of the world and aims to make people aware of the situation. The novel documents the life of the self-doubting main character Nathaniel Papulous in his search for individual fulfilment and opens with the melancholy wonderings of Nathaniel’s unrequited love for his childhood sweetheart. Realising the fate of modern society Nathaniel transforms himself from computer obsessive schoolboy to founder of the idealistic International Hope-ist Movement, a revolutionary movement which targets the money-mad multinational corporations bringing them to their knees and thus saving the world.
Eric’s inspiration for the book stemmed from several different art forms, including his love of music, paintings and literature. He was,however, particularly moved by the works of Machiavelli and his ideas of unification in The Prince [the tactics he suggests are employed in the novel by the International Hope-ist Movement to subdue the multinationals] and the symbolism employed by Cervantes in Don Quixote.These were cross-fertilised by his own feelings about the fragmented research of left wing politics and the disempowering consumer attitudes taken.
The novel is very political and focuses indirectly on the author’s own disillusionment of [disillusion with] the left wing, but tackles all issues in a rather tongue-in-cheek manner thus achieving its aim of recognising and assessing the political global situation and providing a strategy to improve it, without manifesting itself as a political harangue. Swanepoel has been very clever in his use of satire and his word—play on celebrity names is very amusing when you realise the authoritative figure he is describing.
Despite Eric’s love of the natural world he is passionate about his writing. The sensitive soul often finds the demands of veterinary work distressing as he sees a lot of easily avoided animal abuse simply due to peop|e’s ignorance, this could be viewed as a metaphor for his views on the poverty stricken and the government’s subsequent treatment of them.
Eric claims to have always been a bit of a frustrated idealist and now feels he has more of a purpose, even if it is only to inform people of his desperate plight to amend society. On speaking of his extensive research of the book he says “it’s really good to finally have something to show for it.” Due to its radical ideals and satirical twist on celebrity culture, Eric had trouble getting the book printed, yet demand for this poignant publication is steadily on the increase.
Saving the World and Being Happy (The Computer Ager) is available from Wenlock Books in Much Wenlock, through Waterstone’s or direct from the author’s website www.beinghappy.info.
World poverty addressed
A Telford vet has swapped pills for pens and launched himself into a new career.
Oakville Veterinary Surgery vet R Eric Swanepoel has penned Saving the World and Being Happy which has been described as “a comedy, a romance and a savage indictment of the iniquities of global capitalism”.
Despite it not being about animals, Mr Swanepoel said his novel had been inspired by working as a vet across the country.
“Working as a locum vet across the UK opened my eyes to the disparities in living standards,” he said.
“My book looks at the reasons for poverty and suggests a solution, but it’s not a heavy read, people seem to find it entertaining, especially the hero’s hopeless attempts to win the affection of the girl he’s after.”
Mr Swanepoel says he now has an idea for a follow-up novel, “I have an idea for one called Vet, Vet, Vet, which will be about three vets who form a pop group,” he said.
Mr Swanepoel, who is based in Manchester but has worked in Telford on and off for the past year, said he had been welcomed with open arms into the Telford community.
Wants to save the world…
ERIC Swanepoel wants to save the world. He works as a locum and has just published his treatise on “re·-democratisation” of the planet, a novel entitled Saving the World and Being Happy: The Computer Ager.
Over coffee in the confines of a pub in Manchester, we discuss his busy schedule and put the world to rights.
Eric was born in Edinburgh, son of a Scottish mother and South African father, he and his siblings spent their childhood in the trouble spots of the African continent.
He explains: “My father came over to do a diploma in tropical veterinary medicine and a PhD at the Dick Vet and he spent a lot of time dragging blankets around the hills looking for sheep ticks. My mother was librarian at the veterinary school and that’s how they met.
“My brother and I were both born in Edinburgh, then my father decided that he wanted to go back to Africa.”
Eric continues: “He’s from South Africa, but he had great childhood experiences in what was then called Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) so we went to live there and my sister was born there.
“We grew up in the 70s during the war in Rhodesia, and then my father was offered a good job in South Africa.”
Words spill from Eric’s mouth with the ease of someone well-educated and literate. His family and personal history flicker in and out of the conversation, along with descriptions of his critically well-received novel.
Saving the World… is the tale of a loner who uses his imagination to form the International Hope-ist Movement to wrest power from the corporations and re-democratise the planet.
Optimism, an uplifting view of the potential of every human being
It’s a dreamer’s book, a fervent hope. But it offers optimism and an uplifting vision of the potential of each and every human being to change the course of history.
Eric’s course began to change after following his father’s advice to get a solid grounding in veterinary science.
Educated at Onderstepoort veterinary school at the University of Pretoria, his childhood dreams of becoming a wildlife conservationist were further bolstered by an MSc in ecology at Aberdeen, which was followed by his PhD.
Prior to PhD, Eric began to fulfil a yearning he’d felt since an early age — to write books — after he joined the Lemon Tree Writers’ group in Aberdeen.
This sparked his voracious imagination and led to what some artists might call an experimental phase after he finished his PhD, when he moved to Paris to “do the writer’s bit” as he describes it.
He has two unpublished works to his credit, one of which he admits should never be read and that he describes openly as “embarrassing”.
The other, which he has provisionally entitled The James Herriot Antidote: 101 Reasons Not to Became a Vet [eventually published as Pet Hates: The Shocking Truth About Pets and Vets], showcases his reservations about the profession and some of his experiences as a locum.
“I had to write something to explain why vets have such high rates of suicide, alcoholism, drug addiction, etc.” says Eric. “The book was what you could describe as black humor.”
He continues: “It seems to me that there’s a high drop-out rate. As a locum, I suppose I do get a slightly biased picture as I’m often replacing people who have burnt out in various ways, and I’ve seen a few.
“Although I admit it may be a biased view, I believe there’s something a little bit wrong with the way the profession works.
“Mainly, I think it’s the fact that in order to get through exams people are selected for academic ability, but that’s not what you actually need in practice.
“You need extreme emotional intelligence more than anything. You also need to be prepared to do repetitive work well and enthusiastically.”
It was partly frustration, a growing political interest, and the freedom of locum work that spurred Eric on.
“I’ve worked for the PDSA and RSPCA and it’s actually quite striking how badly educated and poor some people are. You can empathise with some of the staff who work in places like that who do become a bit wary and perhaps even aggressive and off-hand with such clients.
“It’s difficult not to become that way, but I don’t think it’s right. You have to ask yourself ‘why are people like that, what’s the underlying cause?’
“That’s what drives me, fundamentally — the underlying cause. Some people are great at being firefighters, they get a buzz out of it and they’re good at it.
“I think I’m better at delving to find the cause of things. I like synthesising and bringing different experiences together, seeing connections and finding metaphors. That’s what I love and I’m really driven to write.
“The vetting in some ways inspires it, but lots of other things do as well — dissatisfaction with `the state of the world and the desire to make things better.”
The novel is a mixture of personal experience and intense scrutiny of images from media given a personal interpretation.
The critics like it and the publicity surrounding it is creating a groundswell of support.
Eric is driven in his ambition. He financed publication of the book himself [Not true, although I did make the mistake of signing with a print-on-demand publisher. I am currently seeking another publisher.] and hopes future projects will be fuelled by the critical acclaim he’s getting for Saving the World….
“I’ve got another idea for a novel. It’s about three vets who form a pop group — it’s going to be called Vet Vet Vet.” We both laugh loudly.
“They’re disenchanted with the world and decide to change things through their music.”
He’s also working on the biography of a woman who was diagnosed with untreatable leukaemia, who went on to find a cure through alternative medicine and was subsequently vilified by the local authorities.
Eric Swanepoel, locum vet, saving the world and being happy? Now there’s something to aim for. Further information on Eric’s novel can be found at http://www.beinghappy.info.
Win a signed copy of Saving the World.
Veterinary Times has a signed copy of the book to be won by a reader who can tell us the name of the nove|’s principal character. Answers should be sent to Veterinary Umes, Olympus House, Werrington Centre,Peterborough, PE4 6NA.
Enjoyable and amusing
Eric Swanepoel’s first novel, Saving the World and Being Happy, is an enjoyable and amusing moral story that follows the life of Nathaniel Papulous as he grows from lovesick teenager to become a multi-millionaire, and eventually to become founder of the Hope-ist Movement, an organisation that plans to save the world by bringing to an end the exploitation of the poor by the world’s massive multinational corporations.
Embarrassingly pathetic attempts to win her heart
The first half of the story focuses on several important stages in Nathaniel’s life. It starts with him falling in love with his new neighbour, Rosemary, and details his embarrassingly pathetic attempts to win her heart. Afterwards he describes Nathaniel’s time at university: some of the experiences more than a few students will certainly be able to associate with.
Incredible highs and life-changing lows
Nathaniel’s life goes through incredible highs that plunge at break-neck speed towards life-changing lows. It is after one of these low-points that Nathaniel decides to stand up for the world against the billion-dollar companies that he sees as exploiting and oppressing the poor in the world.
Sardonic sense of humour
The author’s voice in the novel is very clear, giving an editorial style to the text, making it read more like a biography than a simple story, which adds to the charm of the book, as just the slight eccentricity in the writing style. There are many asides, often oozing with Swanepoel’s sardonic sense of humour.
Yike brand clothes
The book satirises many aspects of modern society, and pokes fun at many aspects of our popular culture. Brand names are given subtle changes; in Swanepoel’s world, people wear Yike brand clothes and read The Sin newspaper, while the homeless sell copies of Beggar, Shoo! and the most powerful media tycoon in the country is a man with the unfortunate name Bear Mudrock (it may take one a little bit longer to think of the author’s reasoning behind that choice of moniker).
Saving the World and Being Happy – The Computer Ager is a very enjoyable book, humorous, thought-provoking and written with superb style and finesse. It is the perfect companion to pass a boring commute, or to unwind with at the end of the day.