11 thoughts on “The Face of Twilight – Mark Samuels

  1. First published in 2006 by PS Publishing, now out of print. This edition, I gather, is self-republished in 2016. I have not read this work before.
    I intend the review below to have no spoilers.

    ———

    CHAPTER ONE

    “These fragments simply could not be fitted together to make a whole.”

    An engaging start introducing characters, inter alios, Gilman, Stymm and Mund. The first-named is the main protagonist, a writer who brainstorms his writing by pen and notebook in his new local, the North London Freehouse pub, with its own landlord’s loyal ‘tribe’ of drinkers… He has had to move to this area, following an unfortunate gas explosion. He seems to write about the urban wastelands and their rather absurdist type images that come to his head such as pretending the city is a circus, an idea he discards while still in the pub. And he has a political discussion with Mund. And listens to two locals in the new pub solve their crossword puzzle with some word relating to a name of God (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elohim)
    Stymm, meanwhile, is spiritually stymied, I guess, but allowed to wander and stare through windows, within the same apartments where Gilman now lives. I do not intend to rehearse the plot much further, having just given you an inkling as to the tenor in its opening gambit to gain my attention, as it does. Further entries by me here will be more a personal reaction rather than a description of the plot’s audit trail, should it have one.

    “He had no time to waste thinking about weirdos.”

  2. CHAPTER TWO

    “…a psychometropolitan process whereby one is prepared for the revelation, where the very streets that lead to the final destination facilitate the necessary mental state.”

    …where you can also add to the destination your own graffiti as part of that processs or ritual, as you are led, in a striking sense of actually being there, by the author evocatively writing about another author actually doing it, wandering in that sort of process amid the genius loci of North London, Archway, ursurped Romanic churches, a time and place when it is always twilight, written no doubt in 2004 (for publication in 2006) when FACEbook itself was being launched (?), reaching a derelict experimental TV broadcasting studio from the 1920s, that probably, for me, fed its still lingering static into the air, now, today, in 2016, filled with competing wi-fi. There is a naive rapture to these scenes that I admire very much, also touching on hospitalised Ligottian characters who consider all consciousness cursed
    …and Tennents Super.
    It is as if I am adding my own graffiti to the process (or Prozess) of this book, as part of my ramblings here for this web labyrinth of personal dreamcatching, having travelled already a little into this book’s own byways, like Dick Whittington, or at least hopefully.

  3. CHAPTERS THREE & FOUR

    The underground train system and its tunnels, transporting the dead and living, have some wonderful passages devoted. Then another pub’s culture is cleverly built up for us in Holborn, a place Gilman visits once a week to meet a few of his cronies. I won’t go into the genuinely hilarious details, and one of them is me (top passage of page 30)!
    Gilman is on the brink of resuming his cigarette habit, and I feel in the mood to tear pages from this Amazon book, and reconfigure them into a gestalt like found art or like Burroughs might have done, or Gilman seems to like doing himself. The aftermath, of that pub meet and the blonde pick-up, who picked him up more like, turns serious, with police involvement ….and Stymm is involved somehow.

  4. CHAPTERS FIVE AND SIX

    “…drew a packet of tobacco from his pocket and began to hand-roll himself a cigarette. Funny how that skill had not deserted him.”

    The actual or imagined constymmacy around Gilman accretes, entailing his return to the Holborn pub, actually experiencing static on an old portable TV as some threat potentially bigger than just a plot against him personally, together with a synaesthesia where he can even hear someone “unbutton his flies” a room away. Meanwhile, his novel INSANITY LAUGHS has taken a backseat.
    There is something going on here, either ludicrous, or something that such ludicrousness is intended to hide, something that those earlier found art graffiti and paper fragments betoken. A reader may suspect he or she is in an avant garde masterpiece or a writer’s early traditional weird novella. I suspect it is somewhere between.

    “Snape waved limply at Gilman, patches of oily sweat drooling across his egg-like pate.”

  5. CHAPTERS SEVEN & EIGHT

    “‘He was merely an extra anyway; an author with the soul of a businessman,’ Stymm said with a dismissive grin,…”

    From the earlier “deranged tableau” to the city’s inhabitants in “a grotesque play”, Gilman suffers his seemingly justified paranoia of the world’s new conspiratorial takeover by the dead, with many deftly described cataclysmic and gory scenes, sometimes involving people we met earlier in the book. (I am glad Snape kept writing to the very end.) And a world of continual twilight, and mad scientists, and other Necromorphs…and much else. But even in extremis, Gilman continues to roll his own.

    But the core scene is a woman about to tear apart her man’s books with his name on the spine but discovers them turning, even as she turns them, into the tail-end likeness of Nemonymous Two – info for those readers with the look of spoilers about them or those other readers in the know.

  6. CHAPTER NINE

    “The number of cars and other vehicles was far less than before and they were driven as if stuck in first gear.”

    A telling image that is included in a masterful treatment of this North London land into one of Twilight, a running down, with people Gilman had met before, such as the earlier blonde pick-up and the locals in the ‘tribe and crossword’ pub, have turned into death-cloying spoilers and nightmares, dogging him slowly, but surely. Good to see the ambiance of the pub itself is tellingly untouched, including its old-fashioned clock. But the nature of the crossword they are now solving in there is very striking in the context of this accretively haunting novella, mixing the avant garde with the weird, pulp with an inspiration beyond pulp.
    I was wondering whether Stymm’s name synchronously derives from the sound and meaning of STIMMUNG, one of my favourite music works, where the composer also stated that he was inspired in writing it while visiting Mexico. (Was the author’s own strongest indefinable influence from Mexico around the time he wrote this novella?)

  7. CHAPTERS TEN, ELEVEN AND TWELVE

    “The well-practised ritual of rolling the tobacco and papers into a thin tube, of standing at the bar, with a ten-pound note on the counter indicating that he wished to be served: he’d done these things a thousand times in the old world, Did he hope that by repeating such actions all would become as it was back then?”

    There was something driving me on to read these last three chapters in one fell sitting, something pitiful, something truly horrific in a great genre sense that horror genre lovers should NOT miss (it is brilliant) and something even more powerful beyond both those things that I think I may have encapsulated in a word I hardly noticed using and used automatically earlier in this review: ‘constymmacy’, not avant garde so much as a deliberate ritual scribbling to see what pattern of self-identity emerges, as, when kids, we scribbled with our pencils and then pareidoliacally found monsters… but that gives no real sense of what can be found in this book below the naivety. (Just as Snape is now in one of these chapters pasting up his future real-time reviews as fragments all over the pub walls, pre-figuring a later vision in this novella of the Kindle as a real book inserted into a computer just as that FACEbook spreads its tendrils of twilit living by insidious oldTVdisguised wi-fi static (like self-inflicted cigarette smoke?)).
    The scenes in Highgate Cemetery, the sheer horror, the Nemonymity-type fears, the ultimate punch in the gut of a final plot-twist, become better and better as you think about them. And there is much more I can’t cover here, because they are still hidden in the text or in its exhaled air – and emerging accretively even as I write this. In other words, it is not just a zombie flashmob fiction (and on that level, the descriptions are brilliant), but something arguably far more significant.

    end

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