A review of Douglas Thompson's The Rhymer: an Heredyssey

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Douglas Thompson's The Rhymer: an Heredyssey was published as an e-book by Elsewhen Press in May 2014. The paperback edition will be published in July 2014.

Information about Douglas Thompson:

Douglas Thompson's short stories have appeared in a wide range of magazines and anthologies, most recently Albedo One, Ambit, Postscripts, and New Writing Scotland. He won the Grolsch/Herald Question of Style Award in 1989 and second prize in the Neil Gunn Writing Competition in 2007. His first book, Ultrameta, was published by Eibonvale Press in August 2009, nominated for the Edge Hill Prize, and shortlisted for the BFS Best Newcomer Award, and since then he has published four subsequent novels, Sylvow (Eibonvale, 2010), Apoidea (The Exaggerated Press, 2011), Mechagnosis (Dog Horn, 2012), Entanglement (Elsewhen Press, 2012) and has two forthcoming in 2014, The Brahan Seer and Volwys, from Acair Publishing and Dog Horn respectively. The Rhymer is his eighth novel.



Information about The Rhymer: an Heredyssey:

The Rhymer, an Heredyssey defies classification in any one literary genre. A satire on contemporary society, particularly the art world, it is also a comic-poetic meditation on the nature of life, death and morality.

A mysterious tramp wanders from town to town, taking a new name and identity from whoever he encounters first. Apparently amnesiac or even brain-damaged, Nadith Learmot nonetheless has other means to access the past and perhaps even the future: upon his chest a dial, down his sleeves wires that he can connect to the walls of old buildings from which he believes he can read their ghosts like imprints on tape. Haunting him constantly is the resemblance he apparently bears to his supposed brother, a successful artist called Zenir. Setting out to pursue Zenir and denounce or blackmail him out of spite, in his travels around the satellite towns and suburbs surrounding a city called Urbis, Nadith finds he is always two steps behind a figure as enigmatic and polyfaceted as himself. But through second hand snippets of news he increasingly learns of how his brother's fortunes are waning, while his own, to his surprise, are on the rise. Along the way, he encounters unexpected clues to his own true identity, how he came to lose his memory and acquire his strange ‘contraption’. When Nadith finally catches up with Zenir, what will they make of each other?

Told entirely in the first person in a rhythmic stream of lyricism, Nadith's story reads like Shakespeare on acid, leaving the reader to guess at what truth lies behind his madness. Is Nadith a mental health patient or a conman? – or as he himself comes to believe, the reincarnation of the thirteenth century Scottish seer True Thomas The Rhymer, a man who never lied nor died but disappeared one day to return to the realm of the faeries who had first given him his clairvoyant gifts?


Douglas Thompson's The Rhymer: an Heredyssey is one of the most rewarding and challenging reading experiences of the year. It's an exceptionally rich, beautifully written and complex novel for adult readers. Douglas Thompson has taken a big risk by writing a novel that differs greatly from other novels. In my opinion he has succeeded perfectly in creating a wonderfully strange, satirical and compelling story that pulls the reader into a world that's a fantastical blend of fantasy and realism.

Before I write more about this novel, I'll mention that I've enjoyed reading Douglas Thompson's stories ever since I first read him a few years ago. It's been enjoyable to follow how he has developed as a writer and how he has used original ideas in his stories and novels. The Rhymer: an Heredyssey is his most daring and original novel to date, because it's totally different from his other novels and stories.

I think that at this point it's good to mention that it may take a while for readers to get used to the writing style and the prose that the author has used in this novel, but once you get used to the writing style and the prose, you can't stop reading the story. By the way, if you're looking for an easy and light story to read, you should look elsewhere, because this novel is a complex novel - it's pure quality from start to finish.

The Rhymer: an Heredyssey is an intelligent novel that is in equal parts speculative fiction, surreal fiction, visionary fiction, metaphysical fiction, satirical fiction and contemporary fiction. I'm aware that this kind of a combination may sound strange to many readers, but trust me when I say that it works well in this novel. Douglas Thompson is one of the few authors who are capable of writing this kind of beautiful and complex literary fiction. I honestly think that the only author who could've possibly written something like this is Brendan Connell.

The Rhymer: an Heredyssey isn't an easy novel and that's one of the reasons why I like it so much. The reader has to use his/her brains while reading the story, because the nuanced and complex story is full of details. There are quite a lot of layers in this story and careful readers will be able to notice them. As the synopsis states, this story reads like Shakespeare on acid. This is well said, because it gives the reader an idea what to expect from the story.

The Rhymer: an Heredyssey tells of Nadith Learmot's epic journey to find his brother, who always seems to be ahead of him and can't be found easily. Nadith's story is an epic journey - an odyssey - through the maze of his own mind, because the author plays with the idea of who and what Nadith truly is and isn't. It's basically a journey of discovery, but it's also much more than that, because it's also a satire about the contemporary world and art world.

Nadith Learmot is an especially interesting protagonist, because he's a person who's apparently amnesiac or even brain-damaged. He doesn't remember much about himself and what has happened to him. His appearance is quite a surreal sight, because he has a dial on his chest and electrical wires are connected to his body. Nadith can supposedly read signals from stones and is clairvoyant. He may also be able to see the future. Nadith remembers his brother (Zenir is Nadith's supposed brother and a renowned oil painter) and is haunted by his fame, because people know of him and what he has done.

Nadith's journey toward understanding who he is and what has happened to him is genuinely interesting, because bits and pieces of his life and clues about his identity are revealed to the reader during the course of the story. The author shows his readers that Nadith could be amnesiac, schizophrenic or even the legendary Thomas The Rhymer who never lied nor died and suddenly disappeared to the realm of the fairies who gave him the gift of clairvoyance.

The world Nadith travels through is fascinating and strange, because he travels through the different suburbs and satellite towns towards Urbis in order to find his brother and to find out who he really is. Urbis is a fascinating city, because it's surrounded by four quarters: Suburbia, Industria, Oceania and Sylvia. Each of these parts is different from each other and Nadith experiences many things in them.

It was fascinating to read about how Nadith and Zenir's lives were connected to each other and how they differed from each other. Nadith can be seen as a humble man and a tramp who's a seer while Zenir can be seen as his polar opposite, because Zenir is a man who's had a successful career. Nadith's memories and comments about his brother were intriguing.

It was also interesting to read about what "Heredyssey" meant. Reading about the science and experiments behind it was rewarding, because Douglas Thompson writes fluently and intriguingly about scientific themes. I think that readers will be delighted to read about what the author reveals about "Heredyssey".

Douglas Thompson handles such delicate themes as love, loss, life, death and morality in a comic and poetic way. He writes beautifully about these themes and avoids easy solutions.

Reading about how people reacted to Nadith's clairvoyance gift was truly interesting. When Nadith told people what he sensed and saw about their lives, they seemed to be shocked and surprised by his vast knowledge and couldn't understand how he knew intimate details about their lives.

There's a surprising amount of complexity and depth in this novel. I appreciate it that the author doesn't reveal everything to the reader at first, but trusts that the reader will be able to put different pieces together and can follow a complex story that's full of surprises. This novel can be called a mystery novel, because the author has created a surreal and mind-boggling mystery story that blends reality, memories and fantasy in a unique way and never underestimates the reader's intelligence.

When the reader begins to read this novel, he/she immediately begins to ask these questions: Who is Nadith? Is he a seer? Does he have a clairvoyance gift? Is he mad? What has happened to him? I won't reveal here what the author reveals about Nadith's life, but I'll mention that the only way to find out things about him is to read the whole novel.

As a satire about the contemporary world and art world, this novel is - in my opinion - on a level of its own, because certain scenes are stingingly humorous and the observations about many things related to art are genuinely funny and inventive. Careful and learned readers will notice that at times the satirical elements border on being almost diabolically funny.

The Rhymer: an Heredyssey contains exceptionally rich language and lush descriptions about characters and places. The lyrical and evocative prose is nuanced and beautiful (I think it's fair to say that the prose is of the highest possible quality). It's been a while since anybody has written this kind of lyrical prose, because lyricism in storytelling has been almost forgotten by modern writers. It's nice to see that Douglas Thompson has had courage to tell his story in the first person in a rhytmic stream of lyricism.

The cover and interior illustrations designed by Alison Buck are beautiful and fit the story perfectly.

If you want quality and enjoy reading literary fiction with speculative fiction elements, please do yourself a favour and read The Rhymer: an Heredyssey. It's a stunningly original and genre-bending novel that showcases the depth of Douglas Thompson's imagination and his writing skills. It's a true masterpiece of surrealism and imaginative storytelling that needs to be experienced personally to fully understand its nuanced and intricate beauty.

Highly recommended!