Newt Run,a novel by Chad Inglis, is a fascinating story that grabbed and held my attention all the way through. This despite my usual aversion to longish novels (at least to those not written by Conrad or Dickens or Dostoevsky). As best as I can make out, the central fact of the novel is a convergence of more than one parallel universes, any or none of which may be considered “real”, though when you think about it, to anyone in a given universe, all others would have to be thought of as unreal, which may be the main conception behind the novel.
Numerous characters are interwoven among and into each other, sometimes sharing voices, faces, bits of memories, and bodies, as events conspire to complicate the relationships between these various worlds. Gateways, or holes, between the worlds are painted, built, constructed, attempted in different ways, but incompletely, incompetently and usually rather violently. Different interested parties are constantly in conflict and serve to complicate and interfere in each other’s plans to such an extent that none of them can ever succeed.
In the midst of this are people that can’t be seen, or can only be seen under certain circumstances, and a girl with a very special egg. My favorite bits are the narration by an old man at a bar, which is written with a wonderful sense of authorship.
Speaking of bars, there are far too many of those for my taste. As someone who doesn’t drink, and doesn’t like to hang around with people who do drink (or get high all the time), I got a little bored with all the alcohol in this book. To me, it was one of the two biggest weaknesses – the other being the all-too-common appearance of girls with “great legs” who are always willing to spread them for the protagonist. This touch of classic sci-fi could be edited out completely to great effect! For example, the Daphne/Pandora scenes would be better without the sex. Likewise, the drinking could be cut down on – always a good suggestion! Drunks are never as lucid or as quick on the trigger as these guys in this story are. Maybe two or three characters could abstain. Auld? Irbe? Anybody? I always say it’s never too late to improve a story. I’ve changed several of mine years later.
There’s a reason for all that, I’m sure, but just as there can be too much of a good thing (or in this book, too much “coffee and toast”, even though I’d much rather have that than all the whiskey that’s consumed), there is room for addition by subtraction here, and maybe some future editings could take that into consideration.
On the whole, the world of Newt Run is beautifully constructed – a town that shouldn’t exist and barely does, built on broken half-assed steam technology (I loved this touch), full of miners and students and bars and coffee shops and buses and hockey rinks and pits down deep in the mines. There are many mysteries here, in a place that came as fully alive for me as an Edward Hopper painting. Recommended.