The Night Clock by Paul Meloy

A world Pullman and Dali could have created.
The Night Clock book cover

Phil Trevena's patients are dying and he needs answers. One of the disturbed men in his care tells him that he needs to find Daniel, that Daniel will be able to explain what is happening. But who is Daniel? Daniel was lost once, broken by the same force that has turned its hatred on Trevena. His destiny is greater than he could ever imagine. Drawn together, Trevena and Daniel embark on an extraordinary journey of discovery, encountering The Firmament Surgeons in the Dark Time - the flux above our reality. Whoever controls Dark Time controls the minds of humanity. The Firmament Surgeons, aware of the approach of limitless hostility and darkness, are gathered to bring an end to the war with the Autoscopes, before they tear our reality apart.

This plot synopsis and Ben Baldwin's striking cover art made The Night Clock a must read. This was my first foray into author Paul Meloy's writing and imagination. I knew that he has written lots of short stories, but this was my first introduction to him. As introductions go, this was impressive. The Night Clock manages to make the mundane and familiar unsettling and fantastical. The characters in "our" world are utterly believable and I am sure other readers will recognise some of the personalities and quirks on display.

The story begins against a seemingly dull, urban background of little Britain, with its estates, corner shops and pubs. As the plot unfolds, things continue to get stranger and more menacing. Meloy is great at creating suspense and uncertainty, as evidenced in an early scene between Trevena and a trainee whilst on a house call. When the time comes, the fantasy elements come thick and fast. I loved the twisted imagery and dreamscape that has been created here. It is as if His Dark Materials author Philip Pullman and surrealist artist Salvador Dali had a chat over a few drinks and this was the world they created.

Warning! There are a lot of characters and shifting points of view, but all I would say is just persevere and accept the ride. Any story that has a talking dog gets my vote! Luckily there is plenty of humour as well as the darker elements. There is also a sense that this is perhaps the start of a series rather than a standalone novel. The conflict between the firmament surgeons and the autoscopes feels like it could run and run. Whatever Meloy decides, he has shown that he is not short on ideas. I am sure he will make a memorable and original mark on the world of fantasy literature.

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