FAR CRY by Michael Stewart


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Stewart's first novel, Monkey Shines (1983), wound up as a rather strained case of human/animal telepathy; but along the way it offered an intriguing, emotional study in man/monkey camaraderie. This second, disappointing tale also leads up to a farfetched telepathy finale--without, however, providing any real substance, or suspense in the overextended build-up. English book-salesman Frank Fuller is driving home one night when a boy, running madly on the road, collides with him; and though there's no serious injury the boy--soon identified as eleven-year-old Jonathan Hail--seems to have an epileptic fit before Frank gets him to the hospital. What's wrong with Jonathan? Frank, a childless widower, is soon obsessively concerned, even after Jonathan's divorced mother Sarah takes the boy home and spurns all inquiries. And, when Jonathan himself seeks Frank out, Frank and his psychiatrist-chum Lawrence begin seeing the boy secretly, trying to diagnose his problem. He has violent spells, blackouts, and believes that there's another self--a lower-class boy named Tommy--inside him. Is he schizophrenic, as previously diagnosed? (Sarah has tried to keep this secret.) Or is he suffering from conversion hysteria with multiple personality? Or does he have a chemical/organic brain deformity? At first in secret, then with Sarah's reluctant permission (Frank starts to fall for her), Lawrence does test after test on Jonathan--while Frank (a bore) becomes increasingly noisy about his conviction that Jonathan's problem isn't organic: it must be linked, thinks Frank, to the long-ago kidnap/death of Jonathan's infant twin Philip! And finally Frank proves his theory by letting Jonathan loose to run (as he was running that first night)--as the boy's path leads to. . . Jonathan's twin. . . who actually survived. . . and has been telepathically calling to Jonathan all these years. Readers with an intense psycho-medical interest may be diverted by the page upon page of neuro-psychiatric red herrings here, scrupulously detailed. Most, however, will recognize this as a familiar paranormal/occult plot stretched far beyond its natural short-story dimensions--and will wish that Stewart would use his modest narrative talent for less gimmicky fiction in the future.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1984
Publisher: Freundlich--dist. by Scribners