Tom Fletcher’s “The Thing on the Shore”

The Thing on the Shore is Tom Fletcher’s second novel, published a few weeks ago by Quercus Press. It’s a pretty (bleak) looking book, covered in a spray of sickly green, and if you follow me on Twitter, you’ll have heard the hassles I had to see it with my own eyes, let alone hold it.

I have always read a lot of books. Unfortunately, I read a lot of books at the same time, which can get in the way of them all. However, since picking up The Thing last Friday, I’ve only put it down when I’ve not been reading.*

This is a compelling book, and compared to his last, already better for this point alone – not that The Leaping wasn’t compelling, just that this was so much more so. To my mind, the pacing of the novel was far greater; Fletcher is becoming known for his ability to crank up tension, and rather than breaking as it did in his last novel, this steadily builds to its climax like a frenzied finale of a Michael Marshall Smith story.

I’d like to draw another parallel with Marshall/(Smith) in that Fletcher’s otherworld of the novel (the brilliantly disturbing dystopia of the Interstice or Scape) really feels like those of MMS’ early novels. I wonder if either author has read the other.

The Thing on the Shore is told in third person, albeit with a close and sympathetic narrator – it allows Fletcher to move between the abstract horrors of his tale while keeping the pacing perfect. Despite the ranging narrator, the same themes of green and whales (and later potatoes) continually surface. It felt a bit forced at first, but later grew into a sickening dramatic irony – especially since the reader is never quite aware of that which they would wish to tell the characters. It’s creepy, and it works.

My only criticism is of the novel’s explicit antagonist, the brilliantly sick Artemis Black.** Fletcher shows us the horror and the madness of the reality of this man and his power(s?) clearly and successfully, but I’m left guessing at an odd hollowness of the character. He has traces of Iago’s “motiveless malignity,” to quote Coleridge, but I’m hoping that we will be treated to another helping of Black in the future.

He still raises too many questions. I suppose the best villains should.

* Reread the start of that paragraph for clarity.

** That Artemis seems to have recently become a male name may be the topic of a future discussion.

Tom Fletcher’s “The Thing on the Shore”

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