by David Logan
What is a muse? Where does inspiration come from? Any writer knows the feeling – when a character takes over and a story appears out of nowhere – but how does that happen? Could the answer lie in quantum physics?
The story is billed as a tale about time travel, but there’s precious little time travel in it. Edward’s school friend Alf – a boy that only Edward can see – says that not all universes are the same; there are real universes, and universes that are not so real. I assume – since Tennyson’s poetry does not exist, is not meant to exist, in Edward’s universe, that Edward’s universe is one of those less real; Edward, his odd family, his home, The Manse, are not part of our universe, but Alf is, and Alf’s a muse, but whose Muse? Not Edward’s, it seems (and aren’t all muses women?)
Half-Sick of Shadows asks more questions that it answers. There are clues: a dog (dead) called Tennyson and the title, a line from The Lady of Shallot. Is the lady in white Edward’s mother? Is she the Lady of Shallot? Is Sophia the Lady in the poem? Is Sophia her own mother? I’m afraid I still don’t know.
I had a problem with the pacing. The first three thirds are slow, to be sure, but filled with a wealth of detail and humour, so the lack of plot development didn’t seem to matter – though I was hoping it would all become clear eventually (it didn’t), the slower pace actually appealed to me more. Things speed up considerably towards the end, reaching breakneck pace in the final chapters when I was confused and appalled in equal measure by the mounting body count and everyone’s casual attitude to so much death and destruction.
I enjoyed Half-Sick of Shadows, but I can’t pretend to understand what the author was really trying to do. All I can say is, it is wonderfully written and laugh-out-loud funny, brutal, confusing and decidedly odd.