Review: Mr Shivers

by Robert Jackson Bennett

Orbit, out now

In 1930s Depression America, a small group chase a scarred man responsible for great ills…

What starts out as a quite straightforward story set in the Dustbowl turns into something far more mythological, as author Bennett charts his protagonist Connelly’s unstoppable pursuit of the heavily scarred man on whom he blames his daughter’s death.

There are echoes of Stephen King’s The Gunslinger, the first of The Dark Tower tales, which become more apparent as Connelly attracts others around him who are similarly pursuing Mr Shivers. There’s also hints of John Connolly’s dark fantasy series featuring detective Charlie Parker – his Travelling Man has much of the same modus operandi as Mr Shivers, including the ability to get others to do his dirty work.

But despite these similarities, Bennett’s tale is a powerful and singular one, with his writing style metamorphosing as Connelly becomes increasingly single-minded, to the point where right and wrong become irrelevant to him. It’s at this point, when he realises who Mr Shivers is thanks to the intervention of the Fates, that the book takes its biggest metaphysical turn, with a warning that killing Shivers will unleash something even more terrible on the world.

With a great evocation of the John Steinbeck era, and the reality of Hoover-villes (not the cleaned up version seen on Doctor Who a few years back), Bennett tells a powerful story that grips the reader.   8/10

Paul Simpson

 

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