This was a fun one. One of the most frequent complaints about literary fiction is that “nothing happens”. Fair enough. It’s a trope that the best writers either transcend or ignore. There is no shortage of dramatic action in Nobody Move. Johnson’s novel is fast paced, driving you toward the conclusion with reckless but skillful pacing. It’s a crime novel, a thriller about lowlifes and nasty people and their petty evil that pulls you in with empathy.
Binary systems of classification are inherently flawed. Genre vs literary fiction gets reduced to good vs bad, but there are plenty of worthless literary novels and stacks of amazing examples of genre fiction. Like so many other things in life, the most interesting things are happening at the borders where everything mingles into novel gradients of color. Nobody Move is wonderful on a sentence level, literary prose and fantastic turns of phrase that make the book worth reading themselves, but it’s also a fantastic crime thriller that keeps you pulling at the pages.
Books like Nobody Move aren’t necessarily the books that have the greatest effect on me, or that I love most or re-read most, but they are by far the most fun to read. A compelling story with high stakes, told beautifully, is hard to come by (I’d love some suggestions, by the way). Authors like Johnson and Cormac McCarthy aren’t scared to dip their pen in the dreaded “genre” well and they do a wonderful job of it.