The Wave by Lochlan Bloom is published by Dead Ink Books as part of their New Voices series and it is a gem of a novel that highlights the creative importance of small publishers. This isn’t a book written with any kind of populist or commercial purpose in mind. It is a debut novel that questions life and the world around us in a powerful, occasionally confusing yet very engaging way. Undoubtedly The Wave is a good novel; something worth reading and considering and reflecting on, but it isn’t the type of book everyone would enjoy.
This is something the author himself seems to accept and appreciate. At the end of the book, there is a page titled ‘A Note on Intellectual Property’ in which he ends with this disclaimer of sorts:
‘This is a fictional tale. It is a description of certain distances: the distance between places, between real and fictional, between now and then, and, most importantly, the distance between people.Just how far is it from Gotham City to Atlantis, or from London to Casterbridge, for that matter? What is the distance between Lady Chatterly and Raskolinkov? From Paul Auster to Pierre Menard? Or from me to you?
Some people may think these sorts of questions are idle and ultimately meaningless, but this book was not written for them.’
Bloom couldn’t be more right. The reader has to have a certain inquisitive outlook or an openness to philosophy to truly appreciate this work. They have to be open to the ridiculous and surreal and yet have no issue with that grinding against and interchanging with the real. Reality isn’t absent from the book, it is merely murky and shadowy.
The story is a mix of three main narratives concerning μ, a lonely and troubled figure that embarks on a seemingly pointless quest to find a character that may or may not exist, DOWN, a desperate but quite likeable publisher and Professor David Bohm, based on the real life David Bohm who was a quantum physicist in 1950s Brazil.
At times their stories offer hints and tease that they may be linked, but perhaps the only thing that truly links them is the blurring and questioning of reality and fiction. As they delve deeper in the strangeness of their worlds, it becomes more and more difficult to decipher the real from surreal. Dreamlike sequences remind the reader of David Lynch or Guillermo del Toro films and the discomforting feeling that brings is peculiarly engrossing. There are many different interpretations as to who the characters are and how, if at all, they are linked and that freedom makes the book an enjoyable rather than frustrating read.
In terms of literary influences the obvious one would be Kafka. μ in particular has an uncanny likeness to K in The Castle, and the kind of bureaucratic and absurd places and people he encounters are all of a nature and weirdness that alludes to an influence of the existential writer. That said, there is certain uniqueness to this work which makes it valuable and perhaps a little difficult to categorise. Bloom has written for BBC Radio and a number of literary magazines which have clearly helped him develop his voice, a voice and identity that are crucial when attempting to write a novel full of such complex ideas and big questions. Without that strong voice and sense of style, a novel of ideas and philosophical questions soon gets lost and eats itself up, spitting out a bland boring mess that only the hardiest of reader is going to bother ploughing through. For all this novel is surreal and complicated it isn’t a particularly heavy read if you don’t want it to be. If you enjoy probing and exploring symbolism and subliminal links and clues then you could in all honesty read this book numerous times and enjoy it equally each time. If not, take it for what it is û a comment on reality and fiction, an exploration of the strangeness of life and the distance between us all, a book full of questions, notions, theories and hidden truths. Somewhat paradoxically, reflecting on and reviewing this book reminded me of a Hunter S Thompson quote: ‘Truth is weirder than any fiction I’ve seen.’ Bizarre as it may seem, this piece of fiction writing somehow seems to hammer that point home.
Not for everyone; on that Lochlan Bloom and I undoubtedly agree. Regardless, this is a fine debut novel by a clearly talented author published by an exciting small UK publisher. It is well worth your time and attention.
About the author:
Bobby Gant is a published writer and poet, having had poetry, short stories, blogs, articles and reviews published in a variety of online and print journals and magazines. Bobby also works in adult education. He currently lives in West Yorkshire in the North of England.