He plays the song and the universe shifts as a consequence, as if the music of the spheres has been made dissonant by the world and its dark affairs. There is the Vietnam War, for instance, brought bloodily to life in descriptions which are both visceral and powerful. Earn, he of the earlier whale-cutting duties, sees his friend Gary Mitchell killed, and killed in a flash:
There was Mitchell walking and then there was white. Then Mitchell was on the ground in two places, raggedly sheared in half at the waist, his trunk up in the weeds, his legs on the opposite side of the path, twisted like vines.
This is not the only violence in the book: it’s present as a dark and threatening undertow throughout. There is a horrific stabbing in an alleyway, an act made worse by its seeming randomness. A murderer is thrown into a well where pieces of burning wood rain down upon him. A man kills a mother and her child. An angel is graphically hacked to pieces in a bathroom.
The pages of ‘The Way Things End’ seem steeped in blood, anxiety and disquiet.
As the book’s title portends, this is also book about things falling apart, anticipating, perhaps, the end of days as even the known universe, or universes become uncertain things, as perhaps it always was.
In a sense it is a sort of handbook to impending apocalypse, alerting us to how crazy it is out there, mapping out the madness.
This is an accomplished, dark and troubling tome, not least because the wilder passages of fantasy seem decidedly plausible in the times in which we live.
It finds beauty and some measure of reason in the midst of chaos and tells us about it in prose suffused with a fractured, dislocating and chaotic beauty. It finds patterns in things, which, after all, is what good novelists do.
*The Way Things End by Charles David is published by Tartarus Press as a sewn hardback, with a silk ribbon marker, 234 pages, price £35 ISBN 978-1-912586-17-2. Ebook £4.99. It can be ordered through Tartarus, an independent UK publisher, whose website is here: www.tartaruspress.com
Jon Gower (left) is an award-winning Wales-based author of more than thirty books and a lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Swansea. His most recent book is The Murenger & Other Stories published by Three Impostors press whose website is here: www.threeimpostors.co.uk