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Book Review

Book Cover

The Rhymer
An Heredyssey


Author: Douglas Thompson
Publisher: Elsewhen Press
RRP: £6.99, US $7.99, Cdn $8.99???
ISBN: 978 1 908168 41 2
Publication Date: 31 July 2014

A man wanders across the land travelling from place to place. In each town and village that he passes his persona changes, he is all things to all men and yet an enigma to himself. In one village he is named Nadith, Nadith who chases his more successful brother Zenir. As his journey spirals around the city of Urbis, Nadith is able to use a device strapped to his chest, to connect to objects and animals through the wires that run the length of his arms. The device gives him access to the ghosts of times gone passed and maybe even the future...

The Rhymer: An Heredyssey (2014. 194 Pages) is the new novel from author, Douglas Thompson. The book defies genre pigeonholing, being many things, a puzzle, contemplation on the follies of art and artifice as well as a comic look at civilisations. Thompson is a short story writer and novelist of almost unparalleled skill; his previous works include his first novel Ultrameta, as well as Sylvow (2010), Apoidea (2011), Mechagnosis (2012), Entanglement (2012).

The first thing which really strikes you about the book is the beautiful prose. This is an extraordinarily gifted writer whose lines are infused with poetry. Thompson does not just throw roughshod words at a page to advance a plot; rather he has polished and balanced each word and sentence to perfection. Honestly, if this were only a shopping list, it would still be a delight to read. The beauty of the prose drags you into the tale and holds you there.

The story is tangentially based around the story of Thomas the Rhymer, a 13th-century Scottish laird, who was purported to have been magically carried off only to return with the ability to prophesise the future. If I had to try and put a label on it then the nearest description would be that the story falls into the category of existential surrealism.

Nadith's journey is peppered with clues to his identity, for both Nadith and the reader to interpret. The end of the book does give a resolution of sorts, but even here it is open to interpretation, allowing the reader to come to their own conclusion. There is no right or wrong, there is only observation of human behaviour and folly.

Nadith traverses each of the four, differing suburbs of Urbis (Suburbia, Industria, Oceania and Sylvia), in the guise of a wise man/tramp with the gift of foresight. The interpretation really is dependent on where he is and who he is talking to. He may be a powerful mage or a madman, bereft of his memories. And yet he knows his brother, the object of his chase and seemingly, in his success, the polar opposite of Nadith. Why he feels compelled to literally follow in his brother's footsteps is relatively unclear, will it be a joyous meeting or will Nadith harm or extort something from Zenir?

I’m not sure what more a reader can ask for than a thought provoking provocative plot, written in such skillfully poetic prose. Buy it, your brain will love you forever.


Charles Packer

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