A Chair Between the Rails by G.T. Anders
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The Chair Between the Rails (Vaulan Cycle)by G.T. Anders
This book can be, at times, an interesting but frustrating read. There's a leaning toward the poetic without a proper beat. The title itself The Chair Between the Rails at first embodies a notion of suicide on a chair between rails waiting for a train. The notion that this could then be twisted into a strange and somewhat surreal method of rebirth and in such a transition in the story, makes this a dark metaphoric journey within the head of someone who's rambling thoughts tend to fall into the category of mentally unstable.
That much said: I found it to be an enjoyable read from cover to cover. It reads like a blend of Bradbury and his love of trains and Hugh Howey and his outlandish dimensional space-scapes within the Molly Fyde series; then toss in a dash of anything from Ronald Dahl. Except I wouldn't recommend this for your younger children. The writing is steeped in metaphors that are some of the strangest metaphors I've read in quite some time. I'm still scratching my head about several of them. You'll have to read this to see what I mean.
James Feckidee and his son Austin are at Jame's Uncle Phil's funeral. But nothing is as it seems here, because Phil might not really be an uncle and James is newly divorced and struggling to maintain custody of his son, because of his own apparent mental capacity. Austin seems to also be somewhat affected, but it's not clear what the condition is. I could make a few guesses but it just isn't clear. The story quickly goes from ordinary, though funereal, to a horror thriller when some sort of beast follows them home and makes an attempt on their lives.
This all comes from the almost rambling narrative POV of Jim. It's a disturbing point of view and once again its not quite clear what is wrong with Jim; just that something is seriously wrong in the mental department. That might be one reason why we see pages on pages of repeated dialogue and repeated thoughts that almost become annoying enough to make a person put the book down. That may be some effort to create a beat and affect a mood within the narrative with the repetition, and it does in some way do that; but it is still quite annoying and part of what makes this a difficult read.
There are odd sentence structure; again perhaps waxing into the poetic that seem in most cases to work for the mood of the story; but they often make comprehension a bit of a struggle. There are a multitude of flashbacks that are clearly defined but have content that seems quite fractured and often is difficult to follow and sometimes is confused because the trigger is almost a parallel circumstance so even with being set off into indents the reader can easily get thrown off the rail for a moment until they realize-oh another flashback.
I'm not sure that I was all that impressed with the strangeness that the story took at a certain point in that it started to make me as the reader wonder if this was all just some demented episode of Jim's; because he had gone way off the rails. And I would guess that it's part of the style decision to have created that impression. So in about the best way of description-be prepared to be jerked out of your comfort zone several times while trying to piece together a mental image off of imagery that could easily be comparable to some of C.S Lewis's images in The Great Divorce.
There seems to be a large attempt to create some analogies to christian belief and doctrine, though I don't think that this story would have suffered much without those; and they in fact are drown out by the surreal nature of everything creating suspicion in the readers mind as to the mental state of the main POV character. Once again some Christians might have that moment of being jerked out of their comfort zone with any of the things that narrowly touch on theology.
There are a number of images that become internal metaphors for themselves and once again you will have to read this to understand what I'm saying. The story itself is taking place near the end of thee second world war and there seems to be a bit of a soapbox introduction to anti-nukes that keeps getting bandied about. Though this book attempt to create some metaphors and images that try to be serious it's difficult at best to take them that way since death and suicide are treated more as a means to get to another place in the story.
This makes a nice read for Fantasy lovers who want a bit of pseudo religion in their fantasy.
It might make an interesting reading for those who gravitate toward the literary, though this seems largely to come off as stream of consciousness over poetic prose in many cases, because of the reliance on portraying the mental state of the Main Character.
Though this could be treated as a light read, the style of writing will constantly interfere with that- so be warned.
This could be a 4 star with a little less emphasis placed on the declining mental state of the main characters.
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