Timothy J. Jarvis' The Wanderer will be published by Perfect Edge Books in August 2014.
Information about Timothy J. Jarvis:
Timothy J. Jarvis is a writer and scholar with an interest in the antic, the weird. He currently lives in London. He has studied Creative Writing at undergraduate, Master's, and PhD level, at Warwick University, UEA, and Glasgow University, respectively, and has published short fiction in a variety of venues. In 2012, he was shortlisted for the Lightship International Short Fiction Prize. He is also a part-time lecturer in Creative Writing and English Literature.
Click here to visit the author's official website.
Information about The Wanderer:
An obscure writer disappears, a typescript is found. Is it fiction, perhaps the author's last novel, or something far stranger?
After obscure author of strange stories, Simon Peterkin, vanishes in bizarre circumstances, a typescript, of a text entitled, 'The Wanderer', is found in his flat.
'The Wanderer' is a weird document. On a dying Earth, in the far-flung future, a man, an immortal, types the tale of his aeon-long life as prey, as a hunted man; he tells of his quitting the Himalayas, his sanctuary for thousands of years, to return to his birthplace, London, to write the memoirs; and writes, also, of the night he learned he was cursed with life without cease, an evening in a pub in that city, early in the twenty-first century, a gathering to tell of eldritch experiences undergone.
Is 'The Wanderer' a fiction, perhaps Peterkin's last novel, or something far stranger? Perhaps more 'account' than 'story'?
A REVIEW OF TIMOTHY J. JARVIS' THE WANDERER
I recently read Timothy J. Jarvis' short story ("Nae Greeance o' Bane") that was published in Caledonia Dreamin' (edited by Hal Duncan and Chris Kelso; Eibonvale Press, 2014). It made a huge impression on me, because it was excellent weird fiction. When I read it, I thought to myself that this author will most likely be able to achieve great things if he continues to write weird fiction. My feelings were right, because the author's debut novel, The Wanderer, is an outstanding and refreshingly different kind of a weird fiction novel.
I think it's appropriate to say that every once in a while - if you're lucky - you'll come across a novel that will surprise you with its originality, style and unique storytelling. The Wanderer is such a novel, because it's something different. It pays homage to classic weird stories, but is wholly original and stays true to its roots that lie deep in old weird fiction. Its story differs greatly from other debut novels and dares to venture along paths not often trodden into the realm of classic weird fiction. It's a delightfully old-fashioned yet modern novel that contains stories within stories.
Timothy J. Jarvis combines fantasy, horror and science fiction with an expert's touch and creates an intelligent and fascinating story that keeps the reader glued to the novel. He exhibits signs of exceptional creativity, skill and originality in his debut novel.
The Wanderer is a found manuscript tale that's indebted to classic weird fiction. It's comparable to the stories written by such authors as William Hope Hodgson, M. P. Shiel, Robert Aickman, Shirley Jackson, H. P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe and Arthur Machen. It's reminiscent of M. P. Shiel's old classic, The Purple Cloud, which is a little known and neglected gem of weird fiction.
In my opinion The Wanderer has a sophisticatedly complex and layered structure, because it contains many different stories that are part of the main story. This unique and interesting structure separates this novel from other similar novels, because most authors tend to avoid this kind of a structure. Although the story twists and turns into many directions, the author manages to keep all the threads in his hands.
The Wanderer is a story about an author of weird stories, Simon Peterkin, who vanishes under mysterious circumstances. A manuscript, 'The Wanderer', is found in his flat. It's a weird document - it's an account of things that may or may not have happened to the writer of the document.
The document begins with the writer returning to his birthplace, London, which lies in ruins. He uses an old typewriter to write things down and begins to tell his strange story. When the man's story begins to unfold, many things are revealed about him, his life and his adventures. The author writes fascatingly about how the man returns to London after spending many years in the Himalayans.
The story about the gathering in the pub has been written perfectly. The author writes intriguingly about the man and the other persons who gather to the pub and begin to tell their eldritch stories. William's story of a monster that preys on children is chilling, Jane's creepy story about her husband and children is creepy, Duncan's story about his rough childhood and séance sessions is fascinatingly weird, and Elliot's story is brilliantly brutal and disturbing. Each of these stories has been written well.
Although this novel is weird fiction, parts of it can be read as a postapocalyptical and futuristic adventure novel, because the author writes about the man's adventures that take place in the far future where humankind has changed and tribal people roam the land. Reading about the man, the tribeswoman and the relationship between them was fascinating for me. The man and the tribeswoman fought together and tried to survive in a cruel and hostile world where only bits and pieces were left of the modern world and cities had been desolated. The author wrote fluently about how food and water were scarce and what the man and woman had to do to survive.
Immortality plays an important role in the story, because the man is immortal and is cursed to live forever. Timothy J. Jarvis writes well about the man's life and feelings about living forever and being hunted by something that means to harm him.
There are a few sexual elements in this novel. The author handles them well, because he writes believably about sex and lust. I was amazed at how well he wrote about how sexual feelings can diminish over the years and then awaken again when conditions are favourable for sexual re-awakening.
The Punch and Judy show that was played in the caves beneath London was brilliantly diabolical, violent and disturbing, and will not be easily forgotten by readers because of the author's macabre descriptions. I've read plenty of stories which feature puppets, but only a few of them have been as satanic and disturbing as the puppets and the puppet show in this novel. What happened in the caves and how the man fled from the caves was fascinatingly creepy and haunting.
Timothy J. Jarvis has an eye for uncanny and macabre details, which is great, because details are important in weird fiction novels and stories. For example, the time that the man spent in the sanatorium was described in lush details. In my opinion there was something Poe-like in these descriptions.
One of the best things about The Wanderer is that the author manages to deliver grotesque and macabre happenings to his readers at regular intervals by alternating between writing about the man's future life and past life. Because different things happen to the man at different times in his life, the author maintains a nice balance by alternating between light and heavy moments.
The gruesome and violent scenes are portrayed in a shocking and memorable way. It's good that the author doesn't shy away from gruesome and grisly scenes, because they're an essential part of many old weird fiction stories. What's best about these scenes is that the author doesn't write too much about them, but delivers shocks when necessary.
The author also wrote surprisingly well about how civilization had fallen and risen again, many times over, and how Earth had changed. The detailed descriptions of the ruined London were unforgettable, because there was a strong postapocalyptical and threatening feel to them. I've read quite a lot of descriptions of postapocalyptical places and I can say that Timohy J. Jarvis' descriptions are among the best I've read.
The characterization in this novel was good. The stories that were told in the pub contained excellent characterization and descriptions of the characters' lives. The author created interesting characters, because he concentrated on writing about their eldritch experiences and what happened to them. It was great that he didn't dwell too much on their lives.
The author briefly mentions interesting things and persons in this novel. For example, the mention of an Estonian composer, Arvo Pärt, during a conversation between the man and his driver was interesting. Pärt is seldom mentioned in speculative fiction (I think it's possible that only a few readers may have heard of him and his compositions).
Timothy J. Jarvis plays with the idea of what's real and what's not in a perfect way by keeping the reader guessing what's going on, because the man's story is so detailed that it could almost be true. The story could also be just a product of Simon Peterkin's imagination and his last novel. The realistic and supernatural elements are in perfect balance and the author weaves his story around them, and keeps it flowing masterfully from start to finish.
I was impressed by the author's prose, because it's excellent. The language and vocabulary used in this novel is partly archaic, which is nice, because it emphasizes the weird atmosphere of the story. When I read this novel, I noticed that the author loves old weird fiction, especially old pre-Lovecraftian weird fiction, because there's a wonderfully eldritch atmosphere in this novel that is often present in pre-Lovecraftian stories. (The same kind of atmosphere is also present in weird fiction stories that are considered to be classic Lovecraftian stories.)
I have to mention that the cover image looks great. It fits the story perfectly and is eye-catching because of old-fashioned artwork. I'll also mention that the endnotes and appendixes are great and emphasize the weirdness of the story.
I found no flaws in this novel. Normally debut authors tend to have at least a few flaws in their novels, but there are no flaws in this novel. The Wanderer is perfect in every possible way, because it's a complex, descriptive and detailed novel full of old-fashioned weirdness (it deserves to be praised, because it's a good novel).
In my honest opinion Timothy J. Jarvis is a new master of weird fiction. I have a strong feeling that he'll become a respected author, because he's able to write excellent and intellectually stimulating weird fiction that differs from mainstream weird fiction.
I'm aware that there are readers out there who don't - for one reason or another - read much weird fiction or tend to avoid it. It's a shame that certain readers avoid reading weird fiction, because weird fiction happens to represent one of the finest and richest sub-genres of speculative fiction and offers plenty of memorable, thought-provoking and original reading experiences to readers. I sincerely hope that quality-oriented speculative fiction readers, who don't normally read weird fiction, would read this novel, because it's fascinatingly weird and requires more attention from the readers than many other novels.
If you love good old-fashioned weird stories or if you've ever considered yourself to be a fan of weird fiction, you must read The Wanderer. This novel is essential reading material for fans of the weirder side of speculative fiction, because it's an exceptionally good and well written novel. A few excellent weird fiction short story collections have been published this year, but The Wanderer is without a doubt the best weird fiction debut novel of the year, so readers of weird fiction should put it immediately to their reading list.
The Wanderer is an ambitious, gorgeously weird, beautifully written and stunningly original novel. In other words, it's weird fiction as it shoud be. It's a literary masterpiece that beckons readers to re-read it and enjoy its strange atmosphere time and time again. The Wanderer is yet an undiscovered gem, but I'm sure that it will be found and loved by many readers.