23 thoughts on “Human Maps – by Andrew Hook

  1. The first story is one I read and reviewed here and below is what I said about it at that time:-


    Tetsudo Fan
    “We would be like Godzilla…”
    I have always enjoyed fiction by Andrew Hook, but this is genuinely the most powerful I’ve ever read of his. It tells, with remarkable detail of empathy, a Japanese scenario of railway involving a young male train-spotter (my term not the story’s, but significantly more noble than the reputed geekdom we often think of with that term, thus setting the tone, perhaps, for this whole book). It is a story of a rite of passage, sexual, role-model soulful, where we readers can look down like Godzilla (or like my own ‘gestalt’ of this book?) upon a real railway and an imaginary railway paradoxically as one. This is unquestionably one helluva stunning story, with an amazing Japanese feel.


    “Preserving her image preserved her image.”

    A telling fable, for today when Brexit means Brexit.
    A fabulous fable about a perfectly symmetrical female model called Vermillion, a work I read while listening to Bach played immaculately on the piano by a Chinese lady. A model in any art form is nothing unless it is perfect, I guess.
    But while the world cracks up like an egg around us today, what is inside that egg is sure to be a shock when it exits, a “pavement Picasso” rather than a breakfast omelette. The fable’s moral is cracked, too, and resonates on and on with the synergy of perfection and imperfection. Be it sex, dream or eating out, her body is Vermillion’s raison d’être. But upon a Cartesian ricochet against mirror or window, the truth breaks it.

    “Vermillion’s nose looked like Vermillion’s nose.”


    “I’ve been dissected, bisected.”

    This crucial Hook story — of a journey between foreign places and home and towards one’s lover, this vice versa or synergistic or mutual apotheosis of an Evenson-type self-discovery from scratch, or of cut circles in the ground upon which we walk, or of the names of those countries and places as new meaningful acronyms or regathered dreams towards a hopeful gestalt by clinching it in retrocausal hindsight — was, according to this book’s copyright notice, first published in 2012 in a book entitled ‘Where Are We Going?’….
    For me, like the previous (equally 2012 published) story, it can be read usefully in the light of many circumstances surrounding Brexit, but to tell you why and to what purpose, whether you be a leaver or remainer, may be as arguably pointless as taking a photograph of seaside binoculars.


    “Her irises were the colour of a marble that I once smashed in half as a child, returning eyes to my teddy bear by affixing with superglue the pale twist of green.”

    I like to think of my gestalt dreamcatching as a non-commercial version of ‘blue-sky thinking’. The previous story ends with “the human race viewed from above.”
    And this story is of a hitchhiker girl with a singing voice so beautiful her host male driver wants to harness its alien qualities – and he takes home for other reasons, too.
    There is a sort of symmetry with the model in “The Perfection of Symmetry”…
    And the circles of the human map. And the ocular breaks-it as distortions embedded in this book already.
    I keep my powder dry as to the nature of this book. It so far feels as if its gestalt, once clinched by eventual hindsight, will have been mapped by a blue-sky alien, whilst each individual story was written down here on a human level, written piecemeal, over years of tutelary guidance, only now to be crystallised by this book?


    “Full circle then, full square. I’m lost.”

    A staccato grappling by someone to find their female self, a tussling with and against imperfection, as a scientist, the most obvious way to defeat wrong angles, I guess. Experiences of pareidolia, synaesthesia, seeing anagrams in words, a battle against entropy. A full circle from birth to death, a globalisation – and back again to complete the symmetry or gestalt?
    The bother in brother.


    “Her expression was unreadable which meant unreadable was her expression.”

    Vulvert – her name a body part or a body covering?
    This is told from the point of view of a male student linguist in a castlegarret overlooking a funfair where a Ferris Wheel falls over and lands like a crippled UFO on the ground. His backstory is “dissected.”
    His relationship with Vulvert cloned by words, cloned like the buildings around his garret. This story contains the book’s second time with the double meaning of ‘tear’, and another ‘crop circle’ as another circle.
    It factors into a gestalt of phonemes, together with a green bulb from the funfair as an express Katherine Mansfield type objective-correlative. And an ending that refers to this book’s earlier acronymic placenames, now without the need for express spoon-feeding.
    This book tells stories more like cerebral music than escapist fiction. Expression is expression. Reviewing can be a conscious stream of consciousness in a choreography dictated by Joyce … or via ‘Omensetter’s Luck’, a book I am concurrently reviewing wherein I think I might have found the model for the phenomenon that is Donald Trump, to go with Vulvert’s symmetrexit is symmetrexit.
    Meanwhile, the culvert?


    “The parallel mountain ranges appeared ridged at dawn and dusk. During the height of the day they shimmered, were ephemeral: appeared transient.”

    A story of another omen-setter, a Chinese man and his lover, he with valuable rights to the periscope instrument he invented, an instrument of which he himself was, is, would be a vital component, one that could see the future, but not the future’s context to make sense of what he saw.
    It also depended on the hindsight gestalt crystallisation of an infinite number of possibilities. Thoughtful, human, engrossing, compromising, exploitative, revolutionary, possibly bordering on shamanism. Word-immaculately, crisply “a delicate balance of semantics.” Eventually this story is the instrument itself, by creating it in real-time? It came at me from a blue sky on this gloomy January morning. To help me see above the clouds.


    “He was an outsider here, kept himself to himself. He didn’t like attention for attention’ sake.”

    Kept his sex doll for a sex doll’s sake, except sex dolls have gradations of imprint. Here he has one (a love doll) without any crevices at all, another (a sex doll) with some crevices of yearning, and another a real woman with every crevice known to man, all in a Japanese scenario.
    Human maps, notwithstanding.
    But which the monster? Monster means monster, I guess.
    A hyper-modern provocative tale of sex and relationship, in Hook’s trademark immaculate quilt of Escher words, disguised as ranks of holo-imaginaria shaped like variegated prose and dialogue.


    “But the girl was just a girl,…”

    A telling portrait of bereavement and guilt and another self-discovery – all regarding a man losing his young daughter by accident while he was in charge of her, in charge of her and her doll (in telling contrast to the dolls in the previous story), a doll he subsequently takes – as some sort of what I shall call a hopeful talischild – on a worldwide trip to forget … and to remember. And to transcend. As part of this human map, we get a strong sense of Mexico and its people and beliefs, during which he visits an island with many such talischildren strung from trees. A gruesome, but ultimately inspiring vision, a horror without victims. A culvert between.

  10. I read and reviewed the next story here and below is what I wrote about it then….


    It was thus overnight – and, via this morning’s early reading, Casson’s crusading understory perhaps dovetails with the previous trip on the Pakistani border by the adventurous characters (as they dovetail further with the earlier living body that vanished from its boots) in…
    Rain From A Clear Blue Sky – Andrew Hook
    “The world became monochrome, our shadows became ourselves.”
    At first I thought this was merely a run-of-the-mill, if very well-written, adventure story of risk-taking trippers who regularly travel the world exploring together for individual personal excitement, all planned in the Cittie of Yorke pub in High Holborn, sown with talk of ominous ghostly legends about the area to which they are travelling (here a snowy pass near Russia). But it is insidiously built up, including a ‘third man syndrome’ amid coldness (to contrast with this magazine’s earlier warm-blooded Renfield syndrome) and with a crisis of self-identity that is masterfully done as a discrete element of this story, but also significantly resonating with Cooper’s earlier ‘copying machine’/’conjuror’s box’ experiment. A third alternative indeed.

    A perfect ingredient for the gestalt of Human Maps. Below is part of what I originally wrote about the ‘copying machine’ in the Cooper story referenced above:
    “All I know is that the experimental ‘copying machine’ or ‘conjuror’s box’, as this story has it, causes me to believe that the real toy and the copied toy respectively represent the reality of felt reality and the sheer text that conveys that reality while in synergy with it…i.e. the copy ironically comes first.”
    It is what it is?

  11. CLING

    “…viewed just as we were viewing.”

    “we cling to each other as though tomorrow has yet to be written”

    A variegated collage and/or patterned Escher quilt of this book so far, involving a cinema-à-trois, two men and a woman, that ends up in a Greek shower room. Several surfaces penetrated like a screen of cling film so that the starring couple can couple while existing between fiction and consensus reality, as underscored by music. The two of them are controlled by the author together with the other of the author’s three characters all of whom truly live and/or act as pre-emotive, pre-emptive trailers for truth.
    While one of them writes an obscure poem.

    “The windows are open and the sky is blue.”

    “Honest words falling out of her head like tears onto the page.”

    “…he wouldn’t get funding by lying back and waiting for it to fall out of the sky…”

    “Dissecting” as editing.

    “you’ll simply be the conduit”

    “Still, I hankered after continuity […] would read collections of short stories as they came rather than dipping in and out.”

    That need for symmetry, too?


    “‘Because everything means everything,’ I say.”

    This story is a ‘bonus’ about ‘wounder’, and you will understand those pet words between a couple, and the third side of their triangle called Drew named after the actress in ET, equivalent to the movie-à-trois, in the previous story. Here, though, more digital photography than movies. A choreography of self and unself filtering through you and your partner, where demon is dream, dream demon. A “tenuous membrane” like cling-film and a need for perfection.
    It all ends in a tear.

    “…I regulate my breathing until it matches hers. Only it doesn’t: she is always one breath ahead or one breath behind.”


    “Benedict unwrapped his sandwiches at lunchtime from their Clingfilm straightjackets.”

    Clingfilm with a capital C makes me think of a movie or photographic company with this trade name, as established by the previous two stories…
    Benedict has a downbeat office job where he is even more downbeat than the other employees. He gradually notices the world going off kilter around him, like people limping – and dissected parts of bodies still where there home was, like a whole foot neatly in a loose single shoe, or a head in a helmet.
    I’ll leave it at that.
    “Sometimes it was all too easy to attribute meaning to everything, whereas in fact there was no reasoning to be had.”
    That’ll teach me!

  14. I previously read and reviewed the next story here and below is what I wrote about it then:

    Flytrap by Andrew Hook
    “…he found at the age of forty-seven that he could look at his wife and three children and not recognise anything of himself in them.”
    As above, so below; as below, so above; the regrouping of astrological influences, via three sketched characters, family man with dog, another obsessed by a flytrap plant or planet, and a woman always reading Finney’s Body Snatchers. This collage fits the amount of brainspace of thinking power you have available for it: little such space and you’ll get little from it but still be satisfied by it; a big space and it will keep on filling it forever if need be…

  15. I previously read and reviewed the next story here and below is what I wrote about it then:

    Black Lung by Andrew Hook
    “The decorator went mad with the aertex in this room. I was forever finding patterns and swirls unknown to me.”
    I am usually a fan of Andrew Hook’s fiction but I’m afraid this one didn’t work with me. It has some striking moments like the elephant tissues and the Dream Archipelago-like theme and variations, but the info dump or two in dialogue and the confused imagery of The Engineer, coal mining and Black Lung from smoking et al only served to irritate me. Oh, but I did like the encroaching blend of dream and reality to parallel that of Malik above, and the concept of dreams of happiness but knowing that the happiness was to end… Does that make them nightmares not dreams?


    “…but either way…well, either way is neither way.”

    When I cast my eyes over this story after reading it, it looks like a TS Eliot poem or ‘Snake’ by DH Lawrence…
    It is a tale of a young man who has rented a room at the boarding house, one who knows he is not quite right, but works as a lifeguard, but he also needs to check in at the Job centre. Images move like a poem, too, although being a narrated story, writing in dust or writing in the sand. A symphony of death by bath, some famous deaths. But which way does the water spin down the plug hole. Which way does the sea?
    His nose like this book’s periscope.
    I loved it, but can’t tell you why.
    All these stories, I guess, had a different context on their first outing, a context where they had to fight their corner. Now they have found their home together. Each working for the other. If I now re-read, say, ‘Black Lung’, it would seem to be a different story altogether – a ‘bonus’ not a ‘wounder’, I wonder?
    But I rarely real-time review a work unless it is upon the instinct of my first reading it.


    “What was clear was that the meadow wasn’t always as it seemed to be.”

    This, for me, is a Hook classic, one that is essential reading. The scenario at first reminded me of the closed community at Maybury’s Hospice or Mann’s sanatorium combined perhaps even with Evenson’s Warren ….. a combination of a civilised or curative gathering and a captivation for the residents’ own good. The backdrop to this ‘civilisation’ is one where the hard core world we once knew of factories, cogs, bottle-ends and bricks has been replaced by a more what I shall call clingy-film type containing abode, and when a well-characterised group of the residents, on leave outside that abode, beyond their doorless rooms, discover such artefacts in the meadow, this book’s accretive holo-imaginarium of arguably ‘copy first / reality second’ then affording what we at first assume to be a glimpse of a reality where the factories etc. grow back…
    The ending is a master-stroke.

  18. I previously read and reviewed the next story here and the context of stories described below is that in Black Static #26 at that time:


    Dizzy Land – Andrew Hook

    “Funfairs and the promise of something illicit always went hand in hand, despite the Hook the Duck attractions for the little ones.”

    This story’s California Sands, Norfolk, I imagine, is a ‘genius loci’ similar to Jaywick Sands, Essex, near where I live – so I can fully empathise with the nature of a new funfair being built there. The story conveys this brilliantly (in and out of the cold desolate seasons) with a number of strident ‘funfair’ similes or analogies of its own (like the breakfast fried-egg: the eye in Un Chien Andalou…) — I can’t quite believe, also – in addition to its own stand-alone memorability – the strength of its synergy with the previous stories, particularly the first one. The Lethal-Chamber, now spinning; the Bends of the Heart both physically and romantically (cf the previous ‘female’ back-stories, here more in tune with the Rigney one); sinking or being sucked down towards this story’s version of Mermaids… A truly great story, made even greater by its surroundings in this magazine. Well, I’m a sucker for seaside funfairs, anyway. Especially those that truly live, like this one, a fixture as brash symbiosis between the local council’s needs for local empolyment etc and the protagonist’s needs, inter alia, to fill the holes in his heart. By contrast, travelling funfairs are here also explicitly related to the solar system: giving me a hint of astrological harmonics underlying all these stories, Hand of God or not. A fixture like the Sun or those spinning round it. (21 Dec 11)

  19. I previously read and reviewed the next story here and the context of stories described below is that in Horror Uncut at that time:


    The Opaque District by Andrew Hook
    Another inscrutably beautiful treat to follow that of Littlewood, the two stories’ endings perfectly complementing each other. This one is a classic of our downtrod times, with its living prehensile queues (negatively symbiotic queues queuing queues) along rejigged shopping parades mentioned earlier in this review, all pared – like Rabinowitz’s skeins of skin – ‘back to basics’. Yet there is the metaphor beyond the graffiti mural, one that resonates with the impermeable stone of this book’s gestalt but also with its Exodus gulf, with the initial promise of light and freedom from the ‘shuffling’ and the “threadbare ‘bag for life'”. Whether or not a false promise, it is for you to decide if this protagonist ever left the queue.

    A graffiti mural I photographed in the opaque ukipness of Clactonia a week or so ago:


    Queues mean queues, and queues joining queues?


    if this were the last story in the book, I would say it’s the perfect ending to the book, if not a perfect story in itself, but then that would indeed be appropriate when regarding the foregoing treatment of symmetry and nihilistic paradoxes as themes. The book’s defiance to be categorised other than what it is or what it is not. Leaving the story after this one as a booby trap of an ending or a coda to the foregoing symphony of works. We shall see when I get it to it in a moment.
    This story, meanwhile, deals with the holo-imaginarium again, the “negating the negation” of the Factory Meadow et al. Constancy by a fabrication or dream by opticon, here of and by photographs. Sex and identity by getting inside but still being outside. Photographs, like the Periscope’s earlier ‘tap’ image, an example of a part not revealing the whole. The gestalt equally not becoming clinched in hindsight but avoided, just to spite a gestalt real-time reviewer like me! ‘No’ as the password from nothing to something or vice versa. A “blank correction.”
    “Neither expecting anything nor nothing.”
    “…anticipating the advent of yet another day. A day which never comes.”
    “We were living inside a house inside a house.”
    “…the corner of the bedroom ceiling which was simply a photograph of the corner of the bedroom ceiling.”
    “…the world and its meanings can be exactly what anyone wants them to be.”

    This story draws me towards re-reading the Crow sequence of poems by Ted Hughes.

  21. I previously read and reviewed the next story here and the context of stories described below is that in Black Static #48 at that time:


    BLOOD FOR YOUR MOTHER by Andrew Hook

    “Latterly I came to understand what pareidolia meant, but even so it remained a comfort.”

    I, too, am haunted by the meaning of that word as a running theme within my ‘dreamcatching’ book commentaries, aka ‘gestalt real-time reviewing’, another of my possible obsessions to match the one I described in my review above of ‘Distinguished Mole’. It is almost as if these leitmotifs have been planted in these stories to make pareidoliac patterns…or I have imagined them for my own purposes?
    The fifties-something woman narrator who works as a radiographer visits her father, someone currently needing the care of an elderly neighbour but is on the brink of being a social services case. The narrator’s own gestalt from what she sees is absolutely heart-rending, creating a gestalt from the current awful state of her father’s physical and mental existence and from her own exiled or estranged relationship since childhood with both her parents (carrying the spiritual and visceral auras of the previous stories). This leads to some of the most horrific scenes that I have ever experienced from this author. A tour de force. Perfectly judged. The doubt is whether her gestalt is pareidoliac or real. That doubt in the dream she seems to ‘catch’.


    A perfectly judged book, not in spite but because.


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