Loosely based on Albert Camus’ The Myth of Sisyphus, The Most Living is lifehacker Tim Ferriss meets David Mitchell (both of them) in a dream-like tour of the meaning of life in modern Britain.
Andrew Belthorpe is an unemployed actuary who has found salvation from suicidal depression in the ideas (and extortion) of BestLiving cult leader Lady Sue (author: Buck Up, Bonehead!). Andrew’s wife Alicia, a corporate anthropologist recently returned from the Amazon, disapproves.
Today is their wedding anniversary and the relationship is at breaking point, not least because the anniversary clashes with Andrew’s Inculcation as an Acolyte of BestLiving. The Inculcation ends in disaster when Andrew’s sister’s widower Stuart mocks Lady Sue, who threatens Andrew with expulsion from BestLiving.
Andrew discovers Alicia apparently taking drugs with a strange man in a suit. Andrew’s sister Vivian died of an overdose and, furious, Andrew seizes the drugs and swallows the whole bag. He collapses and hallucinates killing Alicia. When he wakes, a bewitching teenager called Elle is standing over him. They watch Alicia’s body being loaded into an ambulance. Elle convinces Andrew to flee, claiming she can resurrect Alicia if Andrew kisses Elle under tomorrow’s midsummer moon at Hope Cove in Cornwall. Beguiled, Andrew agrees.
Elle and Andrew board the Inferno Express at Waterloo. A monstrous cat orders them into the galley to make an impossible quantity of crème brûlée. Andrew realises all the passengers are dead, bound for the afterlife they believe they’ve earned – Weymouth. The Quiet Carriage is for suicides and other coaches are filled with cowardly philosophers, bombastic aid workers and hubristic scientists.
Finally they find The Conductor, Lucifer. Lucifer warns Andrew that it’s the hope that kills you and is about to eviscerate them for not having a valid ticket when Elle asks a tricky question about hell. The train vaporises and they end up in a ditch outside Weymouth.
Unbeknownst to Andrew, he has ingested the Spirit Molecule, which Alicia brought back from the Amazon for her mysterious employers. Andrew’s ego has shattered into its constituent parts: besides himself the man and Elle, there’s Cynic, a stinking mongrel, and Psyche, a boastful bird of paradise. Back in London, Cynic and Psyche try to figure out what’s happened, aided by spinster and 1930s detective throwback, Miss Maple.
Elle and Andrew steal a pair of bicycles and cycle on towards Hope Cove. They are being chased by Lady Sue and her coterie, but stop to join a marriage ceremony that ends in a shoot out between the bride’s groom and lover. It turns out to be a piece of theatre funded by Dorset Council.
Somewhere in the New Forest, Elle and Andrew meet Robyn Hood and her Merrie People, an anarchist community. After interrogation as likely infiltrators, Andrew and Elle join the People on their nightly sabotage of local capitalist Adham Smeeth’s pin factory. Together they replace the factory tea bags with indigestible Asda Gold, but they’re captured by Adham Smeeth and only Andrew and Elle escape alive.
As they fall asleep in a treehouse, Elle seduces Andrew – but stops short of a kiss. Not until Hope Cove. During the night, Andrew is stabbed by Robyn. Elle fights Robyn, who falls from the treehouse.
Andrew and Elle escape the forest and are rescued by a lothario called Tyler, who welcomes them into his Italianate mansion on the Devon riviera. When Andrew wakes up, recovered from his wound, Tyler boasts of having had sex with Elle. Enraged, Andrew wonders who he loves – Elle or Alicia. Their showdown is interrupted by Lady Sue’s arrival. Elle and Andrew escape from a Juliet balcony.
In London, Psyche, Cynic and Miss Maple have uncovered the mystery of Alicia’s ‘death’: she was sedated and imprisoned in the HQ of her employers, known only as The Investors. Realising they plan to use the Spirit Molecule to artificially inseminate the world with False Hope, Alicia refuses to say where she discovered the valuable drug. As Andrew builds courage in the road trip story, Psyche becomes stronger and stronger. Eventually, Psyche is so powerful that the bird can spring them all from their prison and fly them to Andrew.
As Andrew and Elle approach Hope Cove on midsummer night, they’re finally captured by The Investors, and imprisoned in a lighthouse. Andrew recognises the stranger who was with Alicia when he took the Spirit Molecule. Elle performs a seemingly miraculous escape from the lighthouse (she was released by The Investors) and frees Andrew. She rows them out of Hope Cove to a smuggler’s wreck, The Esmerelda. When the full moon strikes the deck, they will kiss and Elle – or Elpis, the Greek Goddess of Hope as she is now revealed – will be made corporeal and live in the world instead of solely in man. She was never going to resurrect Alicia.
Before the kiss can happen, the moon disappears behind a ‘cloud’ – it’s Psyche, Andrew’s spirit, grown large enough to carry Alicia, Miss Maple and Cynic the dog. In a desperate fight, Psyche defeats Elle and ties her up in chains from The Esmerelda’s anchor. Lady Sue arrives and easily captures the injured and exhausted Psyche. She demands the kiss of life from Andrew: only Hope can keep her young. Shackled, Psyche draws close to death and Andrew struggles with his conscience. He agrees to the kiss, but Cynic knocks Lady Sue overboard.
At gunpoint, The Investors command Andrew to kiss Elle: imagine a world with False Hope – it’d be great for business. But the kiss doesn’t t work because Andrew doesn’t love Elle. Instead, Andrew kisses Alicia under the moonlight and commands Death to resurrect his sister Vivian.