Not often I get to post about an book set in the old skool rave era, but I've just got a copy of Nina De La Mers' 4 a.m. (yes, named after the tune). Set in the early 1990s on a British army base, 4 a.m. tells the story of Cal and Manny, soldiers posted to Germany as army chefs. Bored and institutionalised, the pair soon succumb to the neon temptations of Hamburg's red-light district, where they dive into a seedy world of recreational drugs and all-night raves.
But it is only a matter of time before hedonism and military discipline clash head on, with comic and poignant consequences. Life-affirming raving soon gives way to gloomy, drug-fuelled nights in fast food restaurants, at sex shows, and in Turkish dive bars. As a succession of events ratchets up the pressure on Cal and Manny their friendship is tested, a secret is revealed, and a shocking betrayal changes one of their lives forever. 4 a.m. depicts life in a peacetime Army and a civilian world in which conflict is never far away. Driven by two distinctive voices, and written in a lively and buzzing style, Nina de la Mer's début novel holds a mirror up to youth culture at the end of the twentieth century. The reflection is not always a flattering one.