“Purgatorium” by J. H. Carnathan

According to the information we are given in the blurb, the main character in this book is in a coma, and in eight hours (or maybe days; time is flexible) the doctors are going to pull the plug. This information is in the book somewhere, but everything else is up for grabs.
As this unnamed hero fights his way through the ever-decreasing hours to his possible death, he undergoes a surrealistic search for a way to save his soul, and thus his life. Recurring themes, objects and characters push their way into his consciousness and disappear just as quickly. Demons torture and kill other demons with impunity, changing identities at will. Sympathetic characters that may or may not be from his real life aid and impede him.
And through it all, the reader is desperately trying, like the hero, to figure out what is going on. And there lies the nub of whether you will enjoy this book. Authors of surrealistic works make choices about how much they will let the reader in on the basic logic behind the action. Different readers respond to different levels of accessibility.
And the logic of this book is not very accessible. Each individual scenario is clearly laid out in realistic terms, but where each one fits in the pattern of the novel – and indeed what that pattern may be – is unclear.
And speaking of clarity; I have mentioned in other reviews of this style of writing that it behooves these authors to be especially careful with their editing, especially word usage and sentence structure. Readers trust that the writer is in control of the amount of information he gives us and keeps from us as we solve the puzzle he has created. If we begin to suspect that he’s not being obscure on purpose, but just making word usage mistakes, the whole house of cards begins to teeter.
And when even in the blurb on Amazon you get sentences like, “He must relyon (sic) this group who seem to tender on truth and violence to get him to the finish line on time.” We begin to wonder how much of the obscurity stems from a carefully planned revealing of patterns by the author, and how much comes from unintentional poor editing.
Another element that detracts from full enjoyment of the book is the lack of emotional variety. In the first place, the writing style creates very little emotion. Also, we have no idea what is coming next, so we have no hope or desire for the hero to escape because we can never predict any future possibility. This leaves us with nothing to be tense or worry about, removing the tools an author usually uses to create suspense.
An intellectual puzzle for those who like to be mazed and amazed. Definitely not for the average reader. Try it and find out if you like it. There’s no other way.
4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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