The Speed of Life

James Victor Jordan

“OK, so you’re a rocket scientist. That don’t impress me much” (Shania Twain)

“OK, so you’re a rocket scientist, a shaman, and a future Booker Winner. I guess I’m a little impressed” (De Gevallene)

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The Speed of Life, James Victor Jordan, Turning Leaf Books

I’m glad that I’m sufficiently bloody minded that having got such a bargain (paying just .99c for a kindle of this beautiful book!) I was determined to finish it even though it annoyed me quite a lot from the start.

It’s an impressively good book.

True, it seems rather too anxious to let you know this.  The substance of the book is sandwiched between an introduction comprising several pages of adulation from important admirers and closing acknowledgments name-checking a raft of similar luminaries. Winners of literary awards.  A nobel prize winning scientist.  A whole slew of professors.  OK. OK. Got it. 

And the story itself pressed quite a few of my “irritation” buttons. Descriptions of fancy clothes : fictitious people in expensively branded textiles. (I don’t care). New-age metaphysics : native American mysticism portentously mashed up with quantum mechanics. (Very on trend. Still annoying). Books where the handful of working class characters are mainly criminals and everyone else has a fancy job title.  (Well!)

But I glossed over that lot (yep, I’m the brave kind of woman who can cope with the squeak of chalk on blackboard and not even leave the room screaming).  I did try for a while to skim the book, but I can’t pretend that worked.  (If you skip two sentences you find that you’ve moved to a different point of view, in a scene happening decades earlier or later, with an entirely different set of people, and possibly in a different dimension, and it might or might not be critical to the plot.)  So I got a grip and read it to the end, through a couple of days and a couple of nights.

What I found when I did so was an exquisite exploration of the interconnectedness of human experience, beneath the invisible surface of everything – our lives endlessly bound up with those of strangers. And a thoughtful, open-minded writer, intelligently exploring questions about free will, about the possibility of relationship if there is no free will, about consciousness, about where we have come from, where we are going.  All the while building a clever crime story to a deeply satisfying denouement.

Throughout this is a project of elusive fragility – through the beautiful, mystifyingly connected illustrations that punctuate each part of the book, through snatches of dialogue, through scenes that seem out of place, out of time.  It is a book written as dreams are written – tangential, familiar, strange.  A question from the book, that I copied down as I read it: “After all, what is consciousness if not a dialog between the past, the present, and the future?  What are memories and dreams if not an expression of the speed of life?”

At that moment I was awe struck.  I knew I loved this book.

It was a tough weekend though, with this guy pinning me down and making me read every word. Later I might decide that I had Stockholm Syndrome.  In that case I’ll have to make do with being happy that I read the book before my friends did, since I rather predict that it’s heading for a Booker Prize. (Even if it’s only short listed, I’ll be one up on anyone who tries to bluff about it from the gush on Twitter. I hope my friends will be impressed.)

Everyone likes to impress occasionally.

Review by De Gevallene

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This review was undertaken as part of a Blackthorn Book Tour

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