Mike French's The Ascent of Isaac Steward was originally published by Cauliay Publishing in 2011. The revised edition of The Ascent of Isaac Steward was published by Elsewhen Press in 2013 (the e-book edition was published in April 2013 and the paperback edition was published in August 2013).
Information about Mike French:
Mike French is the owner and senior editor of the prestigious literary magazine, The View From Here which has been called many fine things since it started in 2007 including, "Attractive, informative, sparkling and useful" by Iain M. Banks and for having a "great passion and drive" by Booker shortlisted Tom McCarthy. Mike's debut novel, The Ascent of Isaac Steward, the first book of the Dandelion Trilogy, was published in 2011 and nominated for a Galaxy National Book Award which, presumably due to an unfortunate clerical error, was awarded to Dawn French. The second book in the trilogy, the satirical Blue Friday, was published in 2012 by Elsewhen Press who are publishing a new edition of the first. The third book, Convergence, is expected later this year.
Born in Cornwall in 1967, Mike spent his childhood flipping between England and Scotland with a few years in between in Singapore. Splitting his time between his own writing, editing the magazine, running author workshops and working with atp media in Luton, Mike is married with three children and a growing number of pets. He currently lives in Luton in the UK and when not working watches Formula 1, eats Ben & Jerry's Phish Food and listens to Noah and the Whale.
Click here to visit the author's official website.
Information about The Ascent of Isaac Steward:
Literary surrealism at its most profound, The Ascent of Isaac Steward follows one man's journey into his own mind as he struggles to come to terms with the trauma that has reshaped his life.
A year on from the car crash in which his wife Rebekah and son Esau were killed and his other son Jacob left in a coma, Isaac Steward has suppressed every memory of that fateful day. Yet fate seems determined to make him remember, driving Isaac deeper and deeper into himself. Slowly, dysfunction builds on delusion, as childhood memories compete with a persona he has fabricated to regress to an earlier, happier time. Violence, death and destruction result as Isaac gradually loses his grip on reality. His half-brother Ishmael tells him that he must return to the wood at his childhood home, to a tree he called The Dandelion Tree, if he is ever to be reunited with Rebekah. But as he descends further, he starts to question his own existence.
A REVIEW OF MIKE FRENCH'S THE ASCENT OF ISAAC STEWARD
Mike French's The Ascent of Isaac Steward is the first novel of The Dandelion Trilogy. The second novel in this trilogy is Blue Friday and the third novel, which will be published later this year, is Convergence.
I can honestly say that The Ascent of Isaac Steward is one of the most imaginative, extraordinary and challenging novels I've ever read. It's a fantastic debut novel and it differs so much from all the other books out there on the market nowadays that it can be called a masterpiece of surreal fiction. It's an unusually constructed novel that has been divided into three sections (these three sections contain beautiful and evocative prose that lures the reader into a surreal world).
The Ascent of Isaac Steward is a good example of why independent publishers like Elsewhen Press are needed, because bigger publishers probably never would've re-published this surreal novel. Elsewhen Press has done a favour for all readers of surreal novels by re-publishing this novel, because it's a beautiful and tragic story about Isaac Steward.
It's difficult to categorize this novel, because it defies easy categorization. The best way to describe it is to say that it's a surreal fantasy or a surreal novel that blends fantasy, magical realism and mainstream fiction in a truly original and strange way.
One of the best things about this novel is that Mike French writes beautiful prose. There's a fascinatingly dream-like quality to his prose and the happenings feel mysterious and strange. This dream-like atmosphere impressed me, because only a few authors have the ability to transport readers to a dream-like world and keep up the reader's interest in the story.
Before I write more about this novel, I'll mention that it's amazing how versatile a writer Mike French is, because the second novel in this trilogy differs quite a lot from this novel in both style and prose. It'll be interesting to see what the author's third novel will be like.
Here's a bit of information about the story:
The story of Isaac Steward is an emotional, touching and original tale of love, loss and reconciliation. Isaac is tormented by what has happened to his family (Rebekah, Jacob and Esau). He becomes more and more delusional as the story goes on, and he gradually starts to question his own existence and life... As memories, visions and images blend with one another, the story of Isaac is gradually revealed to the reader.
The author manages to balance fascinatingly between reality and fantasy, and also fluently combines reality and fantasy - as the story begins to unfold, reality blends strongly with fantasy. The inner struggle of the protagonist reveals interesting and also a bit disturbing visions of love, violence, death and destruction. The images that the author conjures up from Isaac's subconscious are both touching and horrifying.
There's a surprising amount of richness, imagination and originality in this novel, because the author hasn't taken easiest possible route with this novel, but has spent time on creating a truly original narrative that makes you think about the happenings. Because the reader is a spectator of a delusional chain of events, the happenings may feel a bit distant, but there's a surprisingly huge amount of emotionality in this novel (I'm sure that every reader will notice how much emotionality there is in this novel). It's possible that it may take a bit of time to get used to the author's writing style, but once you get used to it, you're hooked.
The Ascent of Isaac Steward is unlike anything I've read during the last couple of years. This novel vaguely reminds me of James Joyce's famous Finnegan's Wake and its experimental prose. There isn't a clear plot in this novel, so it's possible to say that this novel is an experimental novel, but not as experimental as Finnegan's Wake. This novel is more accessible and easier to read than Finnegan's Wake.
It's intriguing how well the author shows readers what Isaac thinks and how his brain works and tries to process the happenings and the trauma. The author describes vividly how Isaac's brain works and how he tries to come to terms with what has happened. The different happenings and persons help Isaac to understand and accept the situation. (Because the author uses such names as Temporal Gyrus in this novel, it's possible that some readers may have to check what these words mean.)
In my opinion the use of biblical names added an intriguing element to the story. It's interesting that the author has used them.
The Ascent of Isaac Steward gets full five stars from me, because it's something different and it challenges its reader to think about the contents and the story. This novel is one of those novels that can be read multiple times, because it offers something new each time you read it. I read this novel twice before I began to write this review, because I wanted to enjoy the story fully and see what I think about after I re-read it.
I have to admit that after I had read this novel twice, I was very impressed by the author's ability to create evocative images. All the different images from Isaac's life, Ishmael and the symbolism of The Dandelion Tree created an unforgettable reading experiece for me. I liked this novel and its dream-like atmosphere very much, because the author writes beautifully how the protagonist loses his grip on reality and how reality blends with fantasy.
The Ascent of Isaac Steward is a literary gem. Everybody who loves good literature should read it. It may not be to everybody's liking because of its surreal elements and strange narrative, but those who are used to reading this kind of fiction will be rewarded by a beautiful and touching story of a man who tries to find reconcialition. I think that readers who are familiar with magical realism and surrealism will like it very much. If you like literary, unique and experimental novels, you should read The Ascent of Isaac Steward. It's a powerful novel that won't be easily forgotten.