Sunday, August 19, 2012

Communion Town by Sam Thompson

Communion Town: A City in Ten ChaptersCommunion Town: A City in Ten Chapters by Sam Thompson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This novel is on the 2012 Booker longlist, and is not described as short stories; it seems to be ten different narratives in the same fictional city. This city has such a strong effect on people that it becomes its own character.  There is a drawing accompanying each section that comes from part of the title page, and appears to be a segment of the city.

There are unknown creatures (maybe monsters?) in at least one story, unnamed narrators, and the city morphs between feeling Soviet to English to futuristic to noir.  The city might lead to eternal daylight. The city may be controlled by a child-like being who creates one in the sitting room.  The city is dangerous at night.  And a flâneur wreaks havoc at night. 

My favorite was "The Song of Serelight Fair." It had a component of mystery to it that almost all the stories did, where I was pretty much scratching my head at what had happened, but instead of it making me want to quit reading, I wanted to experience more of it.  "Gallathea" is more of a straight detective story, and "Good Slaughter" made me squeamish. 

 To try to categorize or compare this writing, I find more kindred spirits in speculative fiction, like China Miéville, or who could forget the maps of Palimpsest by Catherynne Valente. It even made me think of Mark Z. Danielewski with the house that grows and takes on a character that is to be feared, or at the very least not understood.

As far as my own experience with the Booker goes, I think I'd put it in the same category of "C" by Tom McCarthy, another book I really enjoyed while feeling I barely grasped it.  I think it is incredibly good for a first "novel" (if we're calling it that) and I hope to see more from this author.


  1. Your description reminds me of Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino. His writing is whimsical yet structured--I am never clever enough to get the structure until the book is over. 55 cities are described--or are there 55? That is what you have to decide.

    1. I did love that book, and probably need to reread it.


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