Book Review: The Night Clock by Paul Meloy

“Meloy is a master at developing characters who feel real.”

39-920Although The Night Clock is Paul Meloy’s debut novel there is a real sense that his body of short fiction work has been building towards this accomplished novel which is by turn captivating, humorous, devastating, but ultimately uplifting. No prior knowledge of the author’s work is necessary to enjoy the novel; it works as a self-contained piece, but the most rewarding experience is gained by immersing yourself in the world Meloy has created over some exceptional pieces of short fiction. With this in mind, allow us to suggest some of the stories that will enhance your enjoyment of The Night Clock.

Firstly there is the author’s debut collection of stories Islington Crocodiles, originally published in 2008 by the good folks at TTA Press and then reissued in 2013 by Bad Moon Books, a first rate collection of stories that are all worth your time. Of particular import to The Night Clock are stories such as ‘The Last Great Paladin of Idle Conceit’, ‘Don’t Touch the Blackouts’, ‘Black Static’, ‘Dying in the Arms of Jean Harlow’, and title story ‘Islington Crocodiles’, all of which set the groundwork for the worlds and concepts explored in the novel and introduce many characters with important roles to play within The Night Clock.

Next there is the novelette ‘Reclamation Yard’ which appeared in Issue 40 of Black Static, also from TTA Press, and finally the novella Dogs with Their Eyes Shut’ released in 2013 in a splendid jacketed hardcover, with beautiful cover art by Vincent Chong, by PS Publishing. These two longer pieces further explore the world of the Quays and the war with the Autoscopes that are central to the story of The Night Clock. ‘Reclamation Yard’ is a particularly emotional and stirring story that showcases the author’s talent for characterisation; these are real people in extraordinary situations.

Right, now you’re back with us having sought out and read those, on with the review.

The Night Clock concerns Phil Travena, a Psychiatric Nurse on a Crisis Team, having a particularly bad day. His patients, who he has assessed as getting better, keep killing themselves. Travena isn’t introduced until chapter three, though, the reader first getting to see the situation leading to one of his patient’s suicide in a superbly realised action scene in a Children’s play centre that is tense, shocking and, in trademark Meloy style, at times laugh-out-loud funny.

Travena staves off suspension with the promise to stick to paperwork but can’t help investigating further when the timeline suggests that one of his patients, Leslie Branch, made a phone call to him when he was supposed to have already been dead.

Travena’s investigations lead him to Daniel, a Firmament Surgeon able to control Dark Time and cross over to a world beyond our reality. Daniel introduces him to other people locked into a war with the Autoscopes for control and the preservation of our reality.

It’s tough to do justice to the level of world building at work here and it’s of great testament to the author how seamless and free of info dumps the workings are conveyed to the reader. A great narrative world is all well and good but without engaging characters it wouldn’t hold the reader’s attention for the length of a novel. Thankfully, as previously noted, Meloy is a master at developing characters who feel real and are relatable. Travena is no two-dimensional action hero; he’s a rounded man with certain qualities but also flaws. The same is true for the supporting cast of characters, all of which engage the reader and ultimately makes the resolution all the more rewarding.

The only real criticism to level at the book is that, given the rich and detailed story, it feels short, at only two hundred and fifty pages, and you reach the end feeling sorry to have to leave the characters behind. We can only hope that the world of Quay-Endula and the Firmament Surgeons have many more stories for us all to enjoy and that Meloy is willing to transcribe them for us.


Publisher: Solaris
Paperback (384pp)
Release Date: 5 November 2015

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