Friday 13 May 2016

Recommendation: The Wanderer by Timothy J. Jarvis

So, I thoroughly enjoyed The Wanderer by Timothy J. Jarvis. It's one of those novels where a brief précis of the plot can't do it justice, but I guess I'm duty bound to give it a try anyway: The Wanderer purports to be the final manuscript by a writer of strange stories Simon Peterkin, who has mysteriously disappeared. It tells the story of an immortal wanderer of the earth, a man who has lived almost to the end of history but who still fears for his life due to a cruel and demonic being stalking him... This man tells the story about how he became immortal, a story set in our own time and involving a very odd Punch & Judy show, underground rituals, and creepy pensioners. After a brief sojourn in a madhouse he tries to make sense of what has occurred to him by making contact with others who have had encounters with the uncanny. One night a few of them meet in a London pub and they each tell their stories, which have surprising affinities with his own...

See, I told you a précis was pointless. Suffice to say, The Wanderer is a labyrinth of fact and fiction, of stories within stories, of textual ambiguity. (And anyone who read the first parts of The Quarantined City will know how much I like stories within stories.) It somehow manages to combine elements of the Gothics and pulps, old-school science fiction, with a thoroughly modern understanding of horror and the weird. It contains shout outs to many classics of the genre, in particular Poe, Lovecraft and Jules Verne... and indeed, in one bravura passage it manages to encompass almost the entire history of weird fiction into its own fictitious universe. It's gory in places, it's philosophical, it's darkly comic, it's deeply serious yet in parts has the tone of a shaggy dog story told in a disreputable public house.

In short, it's one of the best novels I've read for a long time: original, disturbing and witty. I'm certain it will repay rereading as well, as the significance of certain earlier sections only becomes clear later on. I thought it outstanding.

The Wanderer, Timothy J. Jarvis (UK | US)

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