THE RHYMER: AN HEREDESSY by Douglas Thompson, Elsewhen Press, p/b, £9.95, Website
Reviewed by Stewart Horn
It begins with protagonist Nadith waking in a ditch, deciding what mask he will wear over his bare metal face today and checking the device that’s a part of his chest. It’s unclear whether these are metaphor or something more solid, and the book doesn’t ever seem to make a decision on that, or many other things.
What follows is a superbly surreal adventure in which Nadith travels the five cities of Suburbia, Oceania, Industria, Sylvia and Urbis (all of which may only exist inside his mind), meeting people who seek to know him, exploit him, seduce him. Nadith is a great poet, musician and artist, and can tell the future and the past when he plugs his device in. He also changes his name and his mask in every city.
And if this all seems a bit mainstream for you, it’s written in a kind of free verse – Nadith’s dialogue especially can be a stream of vaguely connected words with rhyming phrases like tourettic tics, sometimes adding another meaning to a simple exchange, often just confusing or subverting any sense there might have been. The other characters’ dialogue is similarly poetic and it seems at the beginning that this is only so because it’s being recounted by the rhymer, but later in the book Nadith criticises another character’s poor quality rhyming.
In the end it doesn’t really matter. From the description it may seem like quite a heavy book, but it’s actually lots of fun. Within a few pages I adjusted to Thompson’s playful writing style and I found myself chuckling at bits and enjoying the wordplay.
There is a plot, a couple of strands about Nadith looking for his brother and his lover, and trying to discover his own history, but think of the whole book as an experiment and an experience, and a thoroughly enjoyable one.