I’m due to start below another of my gradual real-time reviews. And it is of the novella entitled ‘The Places Between’ by Terry Grimwood – Pendragon Press 2010.
There is no guarantee how long it will take to complete this review, whether days or years.
CAVEAT: Spoilers are not intended but there may be inadvertent ones. You may wish (i) to take that risk and read my review before or during your own reading of the chapters and intermezzi, or (ii) to wait until you have finished reading them. In either case, I hope it gives a useful or interesting perspective.
All my real-time reviews are linked from here: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2010/09/07/df-lewis-real-time-reviews/
cover art – Ben Baldwin
Pages 1 – 5
“…feeling the entire weight of the demon-glutted darkness rear up behind her.”
Thrust into the very midst of the action, Rebecca Ann Samuels drives to the woods (woods with imagined or real, intrinsic or separate, living-monstrousness of their own) and, despite no first person narration, we feel we are her as she struggles to move the body of Dr David Samuels from the carboot for frantic burial…
Trenchant Horror prose. No pretensions to anything else.
It may be a mistake to write about each chapter as I read this novella or to specify the plot any further for fear of spoilers … other than, perhaps, in future, giving my impressions as I proceed by page numbers rather than by any formal text breaks.. But let’s see how we go. (Just reached end of Chapter 1 with above).
“Something had flown over the car…” (25 Sep 10)
Pages 6 – 19
“They were p, but what sort of p? She glimpsed wings, horns, tails, animal heads…”
Phew! Relentless thrust of Horror action – but with formal intermezzi as backstories to ‘deepen’ the female protagonist Rebecca (well, there has only been one intermezzo so far and I am guessing) – and I don’t think I’ve read fiction possessing such an unashamed onrush towards visceral visions (visions or eventual truths?)… (25 Sep 10 – another hour later).
Pages 19 – 25
I’ve stopped to take stock at this strange point in the book because (and I don’t know whether I should have realised this already – something I’ve missed or lacked concentration to notice because of the onrush?) this book seems to take place in a specific area of Suffolk with which I am familiar and page 24 makes this clear. Anyway, disregarding this, the book is not without surprises amid the persecution, paranoia and poignancy that underlie the visions. I am warming even further to this book, despite a trenchant style that is not usually to my taste. If the plot and emotions conveyed by this prose can overcome this drawback (for me) – and it has done so, thus far – then it must be a really special book.
But I shouldn’t be surprised if it does. Terry Grimwood stories have been in Nemonymous and I earlier reviewed his splendid collection (The Exaggerated Man) HERE. (25 Sep 10 – another 90 minutes later)
[I don’t think it is a spoiler to say that there is a candle mentioned in this book. Perhaps leave looking at it till you’ve read the whole book, but I once wrote a short piece about ‘Candle Dreaming’ HERE and I wonder if it is significant or even obliquely relevant to this book?]
Pages 25 – 34
Things slow down inventively. This novella is really building its own beach-head in the stormy seas of my imagination. In other words, this novella has a great original story as well as memorable horror visions.
And I’ve learnt from the second Intermezzo that backstories can have their own backstories within! (25 Sep 10 – another 3 hours later)
Pages 34 – 49
“Radio Three whispered Vaughn March’ 3rd Symphony.”
It is as if this book has become a changeling. I put it down before dinner tonight (minced beef) and picked it up again just now. I keep my powder dry. This is perhaps entering uncertain territory I had not predicted when starting this overt Horror prose: heading towards the conundrum of Nemonymity itself: or predicaments of something approaching High Fantasy or a brand of Weird Literature I have not encountered before: where identity is as fluid as the very person who is writing this review. Either the book’s changed, or I have. (25 Sep 10 – another 3 hours later)
Pages 50 – 58
“Something thudded against the landing-window. Something else clattered over the roof.”
This book is self-harming. Not sure if I’m mad, or the book is. I’ll sleep on it. And come back to it tomorrow, hopefully. (25 Sep 10 – another 2 hours later)
I had dreams last night about ape-things with sluggish heads shouting gibberish at me in my bedroom. (26 Sep 10)
Just started Chapter Ten, and aptly I seem to be in a time loop from yesterday. Another frantic journey by Rebecca Samuels (reflecting the start of the book) this time in a different car – and over the Orwell Bridge (a bridge I know very well!) (26 Sep 10 – two hours later)
Pages 59 – 68
“…the very essence of alone.”
A bit like reading this book.
Rhetorical thoughts that I have managed to conceptualise in print for this review and have relatively safeguarded them from the insidious onset of Pidgin English – at least for a while. Meantime, if there is anyone out there reading this review and if you like reading about slithery Lovecraftian monsters, don’t read this book. (They told me to say that).
Seriously… But how can one dare to be serious about this book? It rocks, certainly, compulsively, but serious? Nah! (26 Sep 10 – another 45 minutes later)
“Yes, she did, she most definitely needed to be welled.”
Before I forget, even amid a Boschian Hell (caused by a guilt-complex trauma or for real – and I sense this is ‘for real’), there are friends available to you even in such a Hell. (26 Sep 10 – another 15 minutes later)
Pages 70 – 82
” ‘She is yuh.’ “
Intrinsically serious or not, moral or amoral, blunt trenchant onrushing Horror genre prose or not, there are some seriously powerful images conveyed in this book as Rebecca’s rite of passage-surge continues (towards Nemonymity as the channel itself rather than the channelled?)
[A personal thought: there is, in our real world, a town or village on the coast near where these events take place and a legend of a sunken city out at the sea there and you can hear its city church bells ringing sometimes if one listens very very carefully. Is this a symbol for the human soul? Or something even less tangible?] (26 Sep 10 – another 2 hours later)
Pages 83 – 92
“Someone had just extinguished the candle.”
Somehow, I don’t actually think Hell has even yet begun! (26 Sep 10 – another hour later)
Pages 92 – 100
Through stigmata and the most smothering images of slough and slop and slug I’ve ever read, one is sort of unsure whether the book one holds is the same book as one began reading all those hours ago? We are here at the endgame, and I’m not sure if all this is deliciously gratuitous or philosophically purposeful. Hope we reach the impossible – both!
In any event, it’s made me understand, without being glib or facetious, the true meaning of Woman’s Own and (my own word coining) Missussiah…Missiah… (26 Sep 10 – another hour later)
Pages 100 – 111
“…into an impossible space…”
‘Deliciously gratuitous or philosophically purposeful’? The question is moot. As a brief aside, there is a stunning vision of the Internet as a mechanical Engine at the end, to which all of us here reading this real-time review are martyred. But that’s just my take. There is far more to this book and I purposefully do not answer my own gratuitous/purposeful question above. I’ll leave you to decide. There is a city of readers I imagine beneath this brash, trenchantly-styled, sometimes beautiful/spiritual/thoughtful, sometimes daft, often extremely nightmarish, novella – a city ringing its church bells. Or reading the words upside down.
[Personal thought: I want to know if the 3rd Symphony that Radio Three was playing was composed by Detective Inspector March or, rather, by her husband?] (26 Sep 10 – another 90 minutes later)