“I am half sick of shadows.” The Lady of Shallot said this in the eponymous poem by Tennyson. What an odd thing to say. How did he think of that? Buried somewhere in this rambling comic novel (like Apocalypse Cow , a co-winner of the Anywhere But Here, Anywhen But Now award), David Logan suggests an explanation. But Tennyson’s nowhere to be found, because the book’s set in rural Ireland, in a primitive time known as the 1990s.
Logan has a brilliantly witty writing style, playing constantly with language. He sketches a vivid environment, a cross between Cold Comfort Farm and Puckoon , and the first of the novel’s three parts, relating narrator Edward’s pre-school years, is highly entertaining. However, when Edward reaches school the novel starts to drift off the rails. The school is also well-realised, but as the narrative rattles through the next twelve years, it loses focus. You wonder where it’s going, and without a strong narrative hook the baroque style can become wearying. Several good ideas are under-explored, whilst others are given undue prominence. The book’s still amusing, but doesn’t feel like it adds up to much as it totters towards an abstract finale.
This being an SF mag, we should also warn you that the time-travelling element is largely in the background - so don’t go into this expecting a physics-defying romp. It’s more like a lengthy, enjoyable anecdote by someone who keeps getting sidetracked, then can’t quite remember what the point was.
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