Only Forward by Michael Marshall Smith

Let me tell you about a dream I had.
I was asleep in my room when Indians started to shoot arrows through the window. My father was in the room as well and after a rather short fight we were captured. The next thing I knew I was sitting on a sea saw that was larger than any sea saw I had ever seen. My father was at the other end and we were going up and down, up and down with the Indians standing around with their bows and arrows laughing at us.
What I remember mostly was the fear on my fathers face. He looked terrified.
I was five when I dreamed this and this dream has been with me ever since. It comes to me from time to time as if from out of nowhere and I sometimes still refer to it as the most horrible nightmare of my life.

The first thing I thought after putting the book down was “Kafka would be proud“. This might be an inaccurate statement as I don’t know how Kafka thought at all. But there is something very Kafka-esque about Only Forward. It is dark, disorienting and sometimes surreal. The main character, Stark, is by no means a typical Kafkaesque character though. He is resourceful and seems to know what he’s doing at all times, an impressive persona with skills and his wits about him.

What I liked mostly about this novel wasn’t the futuristic athmosphere, the gadgets or the wit although that was a welcomed factor. What I fell for lay in the core of the idea, in the borderlines between the waking world and the dream. The real versus the surreal, the now versus the future. Shark walks over the line, he treads the borders between worlds and the adventure lies within him as much as without.

The easiness in which the reader is seduced into this world is amazing. Quickly the journey between the Jeamland and the real world seems seamless, easy and elementary. It seems to require so little convincing. So little in fact that I immediately made a parallel between this book and the books of Haruki Murakami, who ties together the real world and the surreal exceptionally well.

And then there are the cats.
Need I say more?

Those who know me are shaking their heads right about now saying something in the line of “she had me at Murakami” and let me tell you that it isn’t every day that I read novels worthy of the Murakami comparison.

The story is surreal, dark and surprising. The human element is exceptionally strong and I like that in a science-fiction (is that the correct label for this book? I really don’t like labels.). In several places I was forced to look upon myself, I was reminded of things half forgotten, dreams like the one I shared in the beginning of this entry and feelings long since past, but not quite forgotten. That might just be me, but I doubt it. This book brings forth something surreal and strange at the same time that it tells a fantastic story.

Read it now if you haven’t already!

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