2023: A Trilogy by The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu (Faber/ Allen & Unwin)


Everything is slippery and everything is meta. Meaning and myth are virtually indistinguishable in this deliberately obtuse and playful novel. The reader is a detective, extrapolating meaning, or thinking they are extrapolating meaning, whilst the writers delight in spreading little breadcrumbs throughout.

It’s overwhelming. What the fuck is going on? From conspiracy theories to esoteric philosophy to number 1 pop hits the KLF, The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu, The Timelords, K Foundation aka Bill Drummond and James Cauty are surrounded by myth and mystery. The quintessential question is why did they burn their million quid on the island of Jura in 1994? They know we wonder and its dangled tantalisingly throughout the book. Their last performance was in 1992 on the Brit Awards, collaborating with Extreme Noise Terror and firing blanks into the audience. They later retired and deleted their entire back catalogue. Promising to be silent for 23 years. The number 23 is very important to them. Check out their wikepedia page for the significance, but suffice to say it keeps popping up, right down to their 2017 reunion happening at 00:23 on 23 August, 23 years after the KLF ended in 1994, with the release of this book

They have of course written books before, most famously The Manual: How to Write a Number One Hit The Easy Way, though they’ve each separately flirted with the pen, such as Bill Drummond’s 45.

2023 is overflowing with in jokes and peculiar references that build on themselves and seemingly lead back to well, it’s hard to say. For instance this book was written by the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu, but really it was George Orwell, well not really because George Orwell was a pen name for Roberta Antonia Wilson. You get the picture. Yoko Ono pops up. Not the real Yoko Ono, she pops up later. The fake Yoko Ono writes a book about grapefruits, sends it to 23 (that number again) people and changes the history of art – in the future. But actually that’s not entirely true as this is a work of fiction, written in real time by Roberta on the island of Jura, and at the end of most chapters are her diary entries where she details her experiences writing the book. Drummond and Caulty appear, though they’re undertakers, or members of Extreme Noise Terror, as is Alan Moore. 2023 is a utopian future where corporations have ensured world peace and the Big Five, GoogleByte, Wikitube, Amazaba, FaceLife and AppleTree run the world. Benevolently. The writers (whoever they are) borrow, liberally from the world around them, switch genders, at times even confuse themselves, there’s homage’s, even blatent theft within these pages.

“I expect the reader’s palette is reasonably broad, so they will notice I have borrowed from two monuments of twentieth-century literature. I do not feel the need to defend this on artistic grounds. I just hope that if this book is ever published, the holders of the copyright in both of these previous works of great literature will only feel honoured I have chosen to embrace them in my work of fiction.”

It’s drowning in pop and corporate culture and its not so much skewering it (which would be too easy), as embracing it, fundamentally believing in the message to it’s illogical conclusion. It’s self help corporate style. Everyone has a destiny particularly corporations as people and larger than life artists who have become so successful that they are known via a single name and have become brands themselves. All you need is an unsolicited unexpected book about grapefruits to arrive in the mailbox.

Caulty and Drummond believe that myths should stay mythical, and like every fiction writer they play hard and loose with the facts. There’s so much of the KLF in here, but its been manipulated Burroughs cut up style, so it bears little semblence to even what we know. It’s all just fodder. Enjoy it and play the game.

Well that pretty much describes everything. Now read the book.


About Author

Bob is the features editor of Cyclic Defrost. He is also evil. You should not trust the opinions of evil people.