In Curtis’ debut fantasy novel, a hermit and a film editor cross paths during a supernatural event.
Former accountant Lowell Watterson lives in the town of Peel on the Isle of Man. After the loss of his parents at sea, he began living in what he calls “the Lounge Age.” He hasn’t left his living room in 13 months, and he’s obsessed with the voice of a woman named Nell on his self-tuning radio. She communicates with him through the static, although he never remembers their conversations. Elsewhere, Brighid Craft receives an urgent email from her mother, Tessy, whom she’s only met once, inviting her to visit her estate in the forested Brocéliande of northern France. Brighid becomes convinced that her lonely mom is crazy after watching her talk with an invisible man, whom the younger woman calls “Fictional Dad.” Back at Lowell’s place, someone rings the doorbell. On the radio, Nell says, “It’s a friend of mine.” It turns out to be an upbeat gentleman named Hector, who says that he’s going to help Lowell direct a documentary. In France, Brighid’s mother skips town, leaving a red and green coat behind. Later, Brighid checks her email and finds that she’s been hired by Aurora Productions on the Isle of Man—although she doesn’t recall applying for a job. This odd brand of serendipity drives Curtis’ complex debut, and readers will need to proceed with open minds as they travel through the whorls of symbolism and quirky humor. The narrative ethos stands revealed when Lowell says to Brighid, “Things don't always have to be neatly sorted into boxes, tied up with logic.” The story grows even stranger when a phenomenon called “UNDER” (“Unexplained Noise and Distortive Energy Release”) threatens the island and the whole United Kingdom. Still, Curtis offers sweetness at the center of this chaos in the form of a white collie named Algo, who’s desperate to be adopted. The story’s deeper connections to Irish myth may compel some readers to read it twice, though others may come away thinking that they’ve waded through what one character calls a “great big dog pile of...imponderables.”
A multilayered, cosmically inclined, and challenging work.