A Stitch in Time by Ian Murray-Watson. Book review

A Stitch in Time by Ian Murray-Watson, published by Matador 2016, Price £10.99

Reviewed by Nigel Robert Wilson

I have come to the conclusion that there is an editor at Matador who is in love with listing Dramatis Personae. This is not a bad thing in this instance as you need this form of reference to keep track of what is going on in this book. There is even a remark in this list complaining about `what do they teach in schools these days’. This quotation originated with Professor Digory, a character in C S Lewis’s Narnia stories. I sympathise as the Classics are often poorly taught in our schools, but when we have a leading Classically educated commentator with an immense difficulty with the truth I suspect intellectually disciplined raw material may have proved wanting in the first place.

This book begins with a Preamble which draws heavily upon `Alice Through the Looking Glass’ but which continues into The Start sounding a bit like the opening passages of the Book of Genesis interleaved with generous slices of the Gospel of St John. This is an educated and educational work with strong literary antecedents, an intellectually exhausting plot that maintains an excellent style and a very pleasing good humour throughout. It is a difficult yet stimulating read that requires some six months to digest or preferably a working knowledge of quantum physics. The only downside is that the reader will find the detailed plot somewhat difficult to follow not from complexity but from personal confusion. This has nothing to do with the writing but is the nature of the work itself. Be prepared to move back and forth through this volume to maintain context.

This reviewer has commented elsewhere that it is becoming very apparent that the fantasy genre is where the new ideas in literature are being first played out. This is very much the case with this work. A good simile would be to say that this is a coherent example of Brian Aldis’s `Bare Foot in the Head’, which was quite unreadable with most giving up around page 48. Not so with this story as it leads you on through a dream world with six dimensions, this world of us ThreeDs and the home of the Gods. The Gods are a bit bothered as someone is messing around with Time. No, not the time, but Time itself and its been going on for quite a while. We then fall into a tongue-in-cheek story where the limitations of the Gods and the constraints of the dream world are unable to prevent a progressive dissolution of reality itself.

You see the error lies within this world, the Gods are prevented from arbitrary action and any agent sent from the dream world into our world soon forgets why they are there. Under such conditions who will rescue the rescuers? A lovely dilemma which needs to be worked through. It would be unfair to say more.

A knowledge or an appreciation of quantum physics will great help any reader of this volume. It is quite obvious that the writer is having enormous fun. There are risks in this approach to any art form as what starts as fun can, if you are not careful, rapidly deteriorate into hard work which was never the intention. This took me back to the first piece of writing I ever had published which meant a lot at the time but is quite incomprehensible now. Nevertheless, it remains a delight. The question we have to ask is how new is all this? This is not so much a revelation but probably a revolution, only we don’t quite know it yet. The human condition is forever changing. Three steps forward, followed by two back. Perhaps it is time for the artists to storm the reality studios all over again, or must we surrender to an End of Days?  For my part, there can be no surrender! Now where have I heard that before?