Book Review: ‘Resonance’ by Chris Dolley

'Resonance' by Chris Dolley

‘Resonance’ by Chris Dolley (US HBK 1416509127, Baen Books, November 2005)

Enter the world of Graham Smith, office messenger and aloof obsessive-compulsive. His life consists of ritual and repetition; his circumscribed behaviour anchors him as firmly as possible to a reality that has always seemed disturbingly fluid and mutable. Throughout his life, people have disappeared from the world, not in the normal way that people come and go, but in a way so complete that they seem to have never existed at all.

He has memories of losing his father not once but twice. Sometimes he wakes to find himself in a house he doesn’t recognise, or one he hasn’t lived in for years. He has learned to make notes for himself to help him regain his place in the world each time this happens – a selection of post-its reminding him where he lives, where he works and so on. He is utterly convinced that the world is only kept from unravelling completely by his meticulous attention to his day-to-day schedules.

Then one day he meets a girl from America who has wild theories about what is happening to him. Then she disappears in another world-shift. And then he meets another version of the same girl, who has another set of theories again. From here on in, Smith is pulled into a baffling series of events in a number of realities as he and others try to discover what is happening and what has caused it. Is he a lab rat in a virtual reality experiment? Or perhaps involved in some bizarre alien conspiracy?

As the plot unfolds, it turns out things are even stranger and more complicated than they initially seem. Chris Dolley’s ‘Resonance’ has a bold plot that relies on mystery for its impetus. Straight away the reader is asking the same questions that Smith is continually asking himself. The POV rarely shifts away from Smith, however, and this means that the constant barrage of internal questioning that he goes through can become a little tedious. It can also be tricky to work out which reality the plotline has shifted to.

The story has a ‘science fiction lite’ flavour to it; Dolley focuses on the characters and dialogue, leaving the technological aspects in the background. Don’t expect bells-and-whistles ‘hard SF’ stylings, but instead trace Smith’s progress towards unravelling the personal mystery of his weird existence. An original debut, if not necessarily in keeping with current writing styles.

{NB: This interview originally published in Interzone #203, republished here with the permission of the editor.}

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