The Wanderer by Timothy J. Jarvis is a novel, or a found manuscript, or a dream. It tells of those who have seen through rifts in the thin veneer of our superficial world and entered into a deeper, unfathomably dark meta-reality. The story (or stories, as it contains many) spans vast swathes of time, and equally traverses the geography of our globe's cities, shadows and far flung desolate spaces to tell its story of impending, unassailable terror.
The fact that the manifestations in The Wanderer are in the main very flesh and blood, solid, non-ephemeral, that they exist of matter and not some ectoplasmic, ghostly material is appalling. There is a lot of pain, viscera, fluid and bone to navigate, but all is set within tightly detailed and concrete evocations of real (at least to those of us who have never scraped the surface and seen the void) earthly places.
The work is complex, although by no means impenetrable. The writing is always interesting and has a whiff of Victoriana about it, although I can't quite put a finger on why this is. I can tell within a couple of paragraphs whether a book will get its hooks into me, and this one bore sharp barbs. Maybe it was the spattering of arcane terms or the conceit (if indeed it was a conceit) of the manuscript being found in the room of an author who had vacated this world in such mysterious circumstances.
Writhing at times with numerous unresolved threads, often fleetingly minor characters that appear trivial and unconnected reoccur at particular nodes of confluence where disparate strands meet, and a pall of eldritch machination impregnates the proceedings with deep reaching tendrils.
The Wanderer himself is bound into a purgatorial eternity of existence, and an interesting philosophical question is posed: What would it be like to live forever? Religion pushes this prospect at us and holds it up as the glittering prize for a life well lived. Infinity is the longest time you can imagine multiplied by the biggest number you can imagine, and then when you've lived that long it all starts again, and then repeats itself. Infinitely.
People regularly get bored on a dull Sunday afternoon when there is nothing much on television, so how can we be equipped for extreme longevity? Clearly our thoughts, our frames of reference, our memories, our emotions are bounded by the capacity of that grey lump of jelly in its protective, bony dome. We are not wired up mentally to exist for aeons. To see the ages stretching before us in a never ending landscape, where the horizon continues to move away at the same speed as we approach it, is not something I crave.
This is the kind of novel that demands to be read again, and surely new aspects will then surface to delight and disturb. Who knows where I'll find myself re-reading this in the future though? In a cosy pub, on board a founded ship, at a Punch and Judy show, in Glasgow, London, or somewhere beneath them all?
The Wanderer is published by PERFECT EDGE BOOKS
Inspired by this, I am now reading The Purple Cloud by M. P. Shiel.