The Horror Zine Review
by Douglas Thompson
|Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Elsewhen Press (November 3, 2012)
Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.3 x 1 inches
by Douglas Thompson
Review by Ian Hunter
I was lucky enough a couple of weeks back to attend a launch event for Douglas Thompson’s latest novel Entanglement in Glasgow, Scotland, which also contained a mini-lecture on the sub-genre known as “Slipstream” given by British writer, Allen Ashley, which was an appropriate topic as the prolific Thompson is probably best known as a science fiction writer and leading exponent of the UK slipstream movement, particularly through his connection with Eibonvale Press.
On the night Thompson explained that he regards Entanglement as philosophical science fiction novel, therefore he could probably be regarded as a signed-up member of the Ray Bradbury camp, as the old master once said that he was more interested in what powered the people in his stories rather than what powered the rockets.
Likewise, Thompson is more interested in the humans he writes about and their experience of “the human condition” – what it is to be human, whether that is love, hate, curiosity, life, death, empathy, objectivity, bias, and other facets of the human personality and how these measure up when confronted by a variety of alien species and cultures.
You might therefore be wondering why a novel labelled “philosophical science fiction” as Entanglement clearly is, is getting reviewed in The Horror Zine, but fear not, there is much to be horrified about within the 336 pages.
The action takes place in the year 2180 where travel to other planets is possible using quantum teleportation and the “entanglement” of sub-atomic matter. In a nod to Ursula Le Guin, Thompson posits a future where “Ansible” chambers have been sent to other planets and have a connection with a similar unit back on Earth. This allows someone here to be recreated on that distant planet, through “dupliportation” but despite the great distances which separate original and copy, they are still connected. One must sleep while the other must stay awake and if one dies, so does the other.
What follows are twenty-four chapters which chronicle visits to a variety of different planets interspersed with some return trips to Earth to maintain the central narrative. Clearly, Thompson has put a lot of work into his world-building, coming up with a range of convincing alien flora and fauna for the human explorers to encounter.
If you want to quibble, you could argue that this isn’t really a novel, it’s more a collection of inter-linked short stories. Some of them have graced previous anthologies, edited by the aforementioned Mr. Ashley, or left-field magazines like Pulluto and Sein Und Werden, but hey, a similar device worked for Jennifer Egan in the wonderful “A Visit from the Goon Squad.” I was certainly reminded of an old John Skipp, Craig Spector novel called “Dead Lines” where they presented their short fiction with a wrap-around device involving two young women who move into the apartment of a recently deceased horror writer and discover his short stories.
My other quibble is that things happen very quickly within each story, or planetary expedition. No sooner does Thompson sprinkle a little chilling, hint of foreshadowing which makes the reader think “uh, oh, one of you better watch out,” and then “bang!” it has happened all too soon.
Quibbles aside, Entanglement is a novel that will live inside the mind of the reader long after the back cover has been closed, thanks to an effortlessly engaging writing style that sucks the reader into the plot like a black hole lined with teeth. Apart from the writing style and thoughtful, intelligent plotting there is a rich seam of horror running through the individual parts as humans encounter things that are very unhuman in appearance and behaviour. There is also a fair dose of black humor right to the very end so make sure you read the appendices and enjoy a sick chuckle or two.
You can buy Entanglement HERE
About the author
Douglas Thompson's short stories have appeared in a wide range of magazines, most recently New Writing Scotland, Ambit, PS Publishing's "Catastrophia" anthology and Albedo One. His first book, "Ultrameta", was published by Eibonvale Press in August 2009, and hailed as "a new form or literature for a new century" and "a modern classic" by Sci-Fi Online. His second novel "Sylvow" was published in August 2010, also from Eibonvale.
About the reviewer
Ian Hunter lives in Scotland where he writes stories and poems and edits anthologies as well as being the poetry editor of the British Fantasy Society's journal "Dark Horizons." His work has appeared in magazines and anthologies in the UK, the USA and Canada, and this year a collection of some of his previously published poems appeared under the titleSecond Hand Poems. More about his adventures can be found out at www.ian-hunter.co.uk.