The book industry has gone Wild West and, as we all know, the outlaws are typically a lot more fun and enterprising than the law men, the only problem being where to find them. One of their secret hide-outs is Authonomy where authors showcase whole or part books (a minumum of 10,000 words) which you can freely read electronically and comment upon. I have decided that as I come across really interesting books on Authonomy, I'll blog my review here (I only review work I am recommending).
The most extraordinary thing about the human mind is that we can hold two diametrically opposing constructs simultaneously in our brains and that we never feel the need to rationalise them.
Think of the possibility of God in His infinity. Yeah, I can do that. Think of whether God prefers chips or mashed potato, and it seems a stupid question, right?
But why is that? If God is here, he will likely have a preference, but we cannot compute the possibility of that, although we are quite inventive the other way around. The latest thinking, apparently, is that soya lets the devil in. Must be that GM bit. It is wonderful how daft arguments begin to sizzle when the authority of God is invoked.
For God, read paranormal experiences. If there are real paranormal experiences, they are real above all.
The question is how do you portray them convincingly? For those of us who have had paranormal experiences and have recognised them as such, not too much foundational work has to be put in by an author to convince us. For those who haven’t or are resolutely determined to deny any possibility of the paranormal, then no amount of work is enough work.
Personally, I have not the slightest doubt that we are shielded by our senses from the vast majority of what is happening around us. When I want to know what is likely to happen, I ask a passing angel. What is strange about that? Well, just about everything actually. Still, it may be as it is.
This is the issue Kim Jewell is trying to nail in her book ‘Invisible Justice’
– making the extraordinary ordinary, wilfully suspending our disbelief. In tight and direct prose, with credible dialogue within a mundane setting, Kim creates what is ultimately a narrative diary around a teenager called Sam whose mind starts to bend, giving a day-by-day and blow-by-blow account of what happens, of how it happens and of what it feels like for it not to have happened when it was expected to.
It all begins for Sam when he contracts one hell of a headache which seems to accompany a heightening of his auditory and olfactory competences (he can suddenly hear sounds down the road and smell the fluoride in the drinking water, for example). Then the whole trip goes away again – no headache, no special effects – until its next onset. Gradually the pain of the individual attacks subsides but his sensory powers increase – he can see in the dark, he can feel the shower jets more keenly on his skin, he meets a friend who can move objects.
I find all this fascinating because I have just completed a book called ‘Missio’
about a boy who meets a magician who teaches him how to do very similar things.
My experience of writing about such matters is that it is getting easier to convince people to suspend their disbelief although some resolutely refuse to do so. The situation is greatly helped by all the TV programmes and films which explore these topics. ‘Invisible Justice’ and ‘Missio’ are, after all, rewrites of superman stories, whether Superman himself, Spiderman, the Incredible Man, Iron Man or Batman. The difference is that both Kim and I are gunning for the internal experience not for the external adventure of the street violence.
My solution (or at least attempted solution) to this problem of credibility in ‘Missio’ was to embed the story in a real location and in real facts about the Hull fishing industry, starting with the mystery of what happened to the Hull trawler The Gaul when it disappeared without trace in 1974. Kim’s approach is in the detail.
As ‘Invisible Justice’ is only partly loaded on Authonomy, I do not know how the story continues or ends up although it is fully written elsewhere. Equally, reading an intense novel on-screen, and rather fast, is a degraded experience. Kim’s is the sort of book you want to clutch in your hand as you soak in the bath, or at least I do (I am not a big fan of e-books). At the moment, on the flat screen of a laptop, I rather fear that she may have overshot the realism preaching to the converted (at least in my case) by piling on too much detail which is inevitably cyclical / repetitive. I am hoping that the physical experience of reading the book dispels these concerns or that in the remaining chapters she manages to make the ordinary extraordinary again.
I am reasonably confident that the one or the other will happen, certainly to the point of wanting to buy it when it becomes available, not least for detailed competitive evaluation.
And, as I say, it is very well written and Sam is a model teenager whereas my Stevie’s mind has to blow up before he gets a grip on things – not much fun for the family.