The Dark and the Light.
This is a compelling book that takes a reader by the collar and leads them into some dark places. Yet it is not an easy work to review, because so tightly woven that pulling on a single thread threatens to dismantle the intricate stitching of the plot, or introduce spoilers that will decimate the tensions.
Superficially it follows a simple time weave between Now and Then which alternate until they become a single psychological whole. Antony Ashurst, the principal character, is with very good reasons, a distracted damaged (and emotionally very young) wanderer, who falls down an open manhole and seems lost to view and to reason. ‘The Bet’ was the leaving of that mantrap open and shepherding him towards it. How he will climb again to the light is uncertain, indeed perilous.
Yet that is far from the book’s whole substance, merely the means whereby to examine much larger issues about our world of exploitation, manipulation and acquisition. (And superficiality; he is too good looking for his own good) What is insanity when the innocence of a young man can provide the vulnerable core that almost all see as an opportunity for gain? His innocence is the mirror in which guilt and punishment, justification and complacency are reflected. Like a crystal that provides a different facet to engage each who encounters him, he is so self-effacing he is unconscious of why that happens. Clarity lies in seeking nothing for himself, but without any carapace to protect that clarity. This is a book about sight, deep in some, superficial in others.
Behind that are deeper issues of destiny and self worth: seeking the light finds help, just as the darkness does. The characters that manifest light (and they are there) arrive when he is liberated to receive them, the dark had found him with savage intent. As a reader one cares deeply about his integrated survival, and that’s as far as I can go without spoiling it for a reader.
The work’s disquiet remains after the book is closed, and that’s usually the sign of a unique vision.