Reviewed by: Pete Barber
Approximate word count: 75,000-80,000 words
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The author is a freelance writer living in Devon, in the South of England, who has published a number of novels and short stories.
Richard Trescerrick dedicated his life to creating the Brainscape—a device that provides access to another person’s mind. When he discovers the government agency providing his funding intend to use his invention to control people’s thoughts, he hides the final algorithm that will complete the machine. During a brutal attack by a government agent at his home, Richard is knocked into unconsciousness and becomes comatose. A group of government agents, law enforcement, and psychologists, aided by his estranged son, Luke, enter his mind using the Brainscape and search for the algorithm.
First off, let me say this is one of the best-written books I’ve read this year. Mr. Townley has a solid grasp on the craft of writing fiction. Sentences so lean that, like the notes in a Mozart symphony, you’d be hard-pressed to pick a spare word that could be removed without reducing the story.
The opening few chapters paint a picture of the challenging relationship between Richard and his son, Luke. I empathized with Luke, and with his son who has some undefined mental challenges of his own. This ‘real world’ introduction is set against a beautifully drawn backdrop of a Cornish coastal town.
But the story doesn’t dwell in the physical world for long. Most of the words are used to follow the characters as they ride the roller coaster of Richard’s imagination inside his comatose father’s mind.
And inside the Brainscape, it’s Jumanji meets A Christmas Carol (the parts where Scrooge is taken back in time), with a smattering of Alice in Wonderland. Nothing is as it seems, and everything is triggered or controlled through metaphors that relate to the old man’s life and loves. Luke learns aspects of his father’s life hitherto misunderstood, and in the process he also learns about himself. As Luke battles the evil government agent (who understands how to control the Brainscape-world) the action is non-stop: a psychedelic happening driven by words instead of pills.
I felt certain reluctance to surrender to this imaginary world. After all, I was enjoying the introductory story, and the idea of spending most of the book in a place where there were no rules that I could fathom, didn’t appeal. However, the imagery was so strong, and the pacing so fast that I soon left my niggling Doubting Thomas behind, let go of the reins of reality, and went along for the ride.
And it was a lot of fun.
English spelling and English settings. I enjoyed this aspect of the story because, for, me the locations were familiar. I don’t believe this would cause a problem, or lessen the enjoyment, for a reader unfamiliar with England.
Rating: ***** Five stars