Book Review: Disintegration by Richard Thomas

“If this first installment is any indication about the quality of the series, then we feel it’s safe to say Thomas has a winner here.”

9781101882627Disintegration, by Richard Thomas (Transubstantiate, Staring Into The Abyss), asks us how far are we willing to go once we’ve lost everything that’s ever mattered in life. Those familiar with Thomas’ work know he doesn’t pull any punches, and this is by far the darkest fiction we’ve ever seen from him. The unnamed protagonist is a broken man, and lives life on the edge, uncaring, but not without remorse or regret. A chorus line of murderous drug-dealers, dangerous femme fatales, and taser-wielding pony-tailed party-girls up the ante at each beat of the story, forcing the narrator deeper and deeper into a corner. The crazy thing is that he likes being in the corner. He likes the abuse; it’s the only way he can feel anything, the only way he can actually live. Employed by Vlad, with his never-ending envelopes of money and cryptic instructions, the narrator takes on each job knowing it could be, and not caring if it is, his last. As he spirals out of control, he finds a tiny bit of information that gives him the one thing he needs to turn his life around: Hope. And with that tiny sliver of hope, he knows he’s going to have to take the whole thing down just to know the truth, no matter how ugly it is.

Each scene crackles like a raw nerve, exposed and throbbing, with intense detail and a particular eye for singling out every nook and cranky of dirt that inhabits the seedy side of Chicago. At times, the narrator seems like the city of Chicago, shining a dingy light on all the grit and grime in the windy city. The story is personal, regardless that the narrator remains nameless, and Thomas’ skillful characterization finds some common ground with every reader. We’ve all been at the end of our rope, at the bottom of the barrel, and we all know all too well that feeling when things begin to go south, when there’s no end in sight and all the bad stuff just keeps on piling up, and that feeling is devastating. All it takes is one thing, one chance to answer our obsession, to drive us to act out, passionately, sometimes even violently, just to discover the truth. With each beat of the story, we slide a little further down the spiral, fearful of seeing the light at the end yet unable to stop, unable to turn around and go back.

Thomas wears his influences on his sleeve with this novel, and some badges show their colors more vividly than others, but the effect as a whole shows that this is a voice of his own creation. There’s nothing supernatural about this story. No ghosts, no bumps in the night. But it’s still horror. Sometimes the most frightening monster we can face is the one we create within ourselves. When the narrator latches on to his hope, he pulls himself up by his bootstraps and confronts the evil face to face. Yes, there is redemption, but it’s fitting and loyal to the character, and comes with a hefty price to pay. Our hero gets what he deserves; another chance to live again, and sometimes that’s really all you ever need.

Disintegration is the first novel of an ongoing series about Chicago. Each part will feature a different story with different characters. If this first installment is any indication about the quality of the series, then we feel it’s safe to say Thomas has a winner here, and we can’t wait to see what he’s going to come up with next.


Publisher: Random House Alibi
Ebook (259pp)
Release Date: 26 May 2015

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Disintegration by Richard Thomas (UK)
Disintegration by Richard Thomas (US)

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