"The Studio Game" by Peter Burnett is set in an anarchic world that will seem very alien to most readers. What makes this impression more profound is that the book draws us into two rather different but overlapping orbits, each of which is in its own way far removed from the more mundane realities of modern life.
The story is seen through the eyes of Guy and Liska, two young artists struggling to become famous in contemporary Aberdeen. Their lifestyle is what might be described in the more conservative elements of the daily press as "chaotic", and there is something about the style of the book and the actions of the leading characters that reminded me of Jack Kerouac's "On The Road" (though with less travel) and Hunter S. Thompson's "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" (though with fewer drugs). Suffice it to say that Guy and Liska seem to go out of their way to alienate the art establishment in pursuit of their own shared vision of artistic utopia.
Although the picture of the "art establishment" that emerges from the pages of the book is very much informed by the prejudices and fears of the main characters, the reader is left wondering how rational the system of sponsors, agents and galleries really is. This is the bizarre world that Guy and Liska are so singularly refusing, or failing, to engage with and at its core "The Studio Game" is a story of two dysfunctional people and their interactions with an equally dysfunctional system.
Meanwhile, Guy and Liska have charted their own path to fame and artistic glory, and central to it is the idea that they can only truly complete their work by ending their lives. Their pact to do so falls through when Guy hesitates at a critical moment, leaving Liska to fulfil her destiny alone. This leaves Guy with the task of deciding what to do about Liska's artistic legacy, 58 increasingly sought after paintings which are scattered around the Aberdeen art establishment, but which Liska wanted to be exhibited as a single work, and then destroyed. Will Guy be able to fulfil Liska's wishes this time round, or will he let her down again?