Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Concrete Grove by Gary McMahon

If this novel were a movie the filmmakers would have used the same bleach bypass film processing technique used for 1984. The action of this novel almost exclusively takes place in murky, gray interiors, and in dusty, crumbling city streets under overcast skies. On film, the one scene that takes place on a sunny day would have been presented overexposed, all blinding light and shadows. If this novel were a film, it would be one of those art-house pictures where the blemished and unwashed characters rarely smile and deliver their dialogue filled with inexplicably long pauses between every line.

What I'm trying to say here is that McMahon does a fantastic job with setting mood and atmosphere. He also does a fine job describing the supernatural elements that burst up through the cracks of the urban purgatory he's built here. The mysterious forces at work, again, if this work were a film, would be the only things rendered with splashes of color. The surreal intrusions on the everyday, the invading forest dreamscape and the twisted beasts living in the trees, would bleed with lush greens, deep browns, and sickening yellows.

Also, like many an art-house film, the story is a slow-burn, the explanations are few, and the audience is left at the end with a puzzle both provocative and strange, with a mystery that can be solved any number of ways over arguments with friends at the coffee shop after the show.

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