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Book Review

Book Cover



Author: Douglas Thompson
Eibonvale Press
RRP: £8.99
ISBN: 978 0 9562147 7 5
Available 13 September 2010

Having previously read Douglas Thompson’s Ultrameta, I was looking forward to the pleasurable challenge of his new novel Sylvow. The two books have much in common being both intellectually rich and readily accessible to the average reader.

Sylvow is a fictitious city in northern Germany, roughly placed at the northern most reach of the Roman Empire, though the story is set in the here and now, stretching its narrative feelers into an unknown and troubled future. Although the city is modern, it is surrounded by miles of almost impenetrable forest, the boundary of which forms the battle lines between science and nature, two competing forms of life.

The story follows brother and sister, Leo and Claudia who make a childhood vow to save the trees and animals. She fulfils hers by becoming a vet; he becomes a wandering mystic trying to understand the imminent fall of man and his place in the natural order of things. Leo appears very little, in person, within the body of the story, mostly appearing through his letters to his sister.

On the one hand the book can be viewed as an eco-horror, but this would be a very surface reading of the story. Like his previous book Thompson uses this framework to discuss nature, humanities guilt and shame, the inevitable failure of his civilisation and various philosophical musings. Now this all sounds a little heavy, but Thompson has a deftly light touch when introducing his subtexts, that they are more likely to get you thinking than turning you off reading the book.

The narrative shows a level of brutality which may shock some, from the description of the almost biblical end of days, to the last thrashing throws of unrelenting sexuality of a species, aware of its probable demise, which tries to find meaning and continuity in the sexual act, the last vestiges of its bestial past and in the context of the book possibly one of the last hopes, being an act wherein man is closest to his true form.

This is an incredibly well written book. However, if I did have a criticism, and in truth it’s a small one, I felt that the first fifth of the book took too much time in getting into the story proper. But when the story really kicks in, the slow unravelling of the central characters, and their mounting realisation of the horrors which the future may hold, make for compulsive reading.


Charles Packer

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