5 / 5 Stars
Visceral, ambiguous and creepy - I liked it!
I really like this author. His writing reminds me of a hybrid of Stephen King (eerie, gory, wildly inventive) and David Mitchell / Haruki Murakami (weird, inconclusive, otherworldly). It's a good combination!
This one is supposedly 'semi-autobiographical' in that the main character is the author himself, aged 19, or something like that. He's a down-on-his luck magician who moves into a pokey little flat, only to find that it's a weirder place than he first imagined. For starters, there's the feeling of pressure that pervades the place. Then, there's the strange shower-room downstairs; and let's not even get started about the stuff that oozes out of the cracks in there...
This is broken up with flashbacks / storytellings of John's past, when he found a boy in the woods and looked after him. Except, this wasn't any normal boy; this kid could hardly speak (and when he did, mainly conversed in swearing), had broken, deformed fingers and black stuff seeping from his nose.
The two tales, as you might imagine, connect - though not on this plane of existence. Yep, it's pretty weird stuff, but that's just the way I like it!
In terms of what works really well in this book - for me, one of the outstanding aspects is the mood of it. There's this pervasive atmosphere of bleakness, which from having read two of the author's previous books, seems to be his signature style. I really like it - it works wonderfully for this sort of subject matter.
I personally love the ambiguity of it too - I always appreciate an author who doesn't have to deliver all the answers to the reader; sometimes it's fun to leave it open-ended and let us do the work instead.
Make no mistakes, this is quite a gory read (especially towards the end). I don't like gratuitous violence, but in this instance, I felt it was necessary to get the weirdness of the story across. It's a creepy, unsettling read and I really, really enjoyed it. Next one please!