Communion Town, by Sam Thompson

Smart, Edgy Horror. Except Better.

Sam Thompson’s Communion Town: A City in Ten Chapters reminds me a little of Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, except I has more plot.

It reminds me of China Mieville’s The City and the City, except it has less plot.

Mostly it feels like literary slug undulating beneath the reader’s skin with serpentine seduction in the same ways its stories crawl the haunted underbelly of a fictitious city. It strangely resembles London, most mostly the London of David Lynch’s Eraserhead.

Communion Town has been called a novel, and was longlisted for Man Booker prize. Maybe it is novel. But if so it’s a novel of fractured stories pieced together in a maze of beautifully written and intelligent prose.

Some say it’s a novel because it stories are all linked through the shared setting of the fictitious city, but to me it doesn’t feel that way. My experience was more groundless and dreamlike, connected through its theme-less-ness.

I have read these stories twice, three times even, and each upon each completion had no idea what to say about them. The stories share no common characters. No one style. One might be steam punk hardboiled detective grit, another a ghost story, a third some nasty immigration saga, and a fourth a highbrow investigation tale ala Sherlock Holmes. The stories have no beginnings, middles, and ends. Or if they do, those beginnings, middles, and ends are all jumbled and out of order.

Every one of them haunts.

Every one of them leaves you wondering what it is you’ve just read. How did it piece together? How intriguingly distant the characters felt.

Maybe it’s not really a novel. Maybe it’s simply a collection of distinctly Western koans strung together under a single title to resemble one story. While there’s a unity of mood, there’s a discombobulation of flow.

Maybe it’s a book of sentences, with each sentence designed as its own moment. Each sentence beautiful enough and complete enough that it alone needs to be read. You sit down to read, you readon sentence, you stop and consider it.

Or maybe it’s a book to be read in a single sitting, front to back, because you can’t get enough of it. It’s a wildly seductive book.

Communion Town is a study of how even though a thing scares, we walk toward it. It’s that good. That unique a read.

Maybe you’re reading this and thinking I don’t know, it sounds odd.

Yeah, that’s is. It’s a true mystery. No clear conclusion to any of its chapters, and yet a deep satisfaction in reading them. A mystery that does not lead to answers, but only to questions. It’s not a canned mystery. It’s too good for that.

I get a little lost thinking about Communion Town. Did I mention it’s a must read for the adventurous?

If that’s you, I recommend you read it. The first time, and then a second just to understand.

Other than that, I don’t know what else to say. It’s an acid trip of a book, but not as self-conscious as a lot of acid trip books.

It’s a meditation.

It’s an amazingly close study into everything all at once.

It’s a whole bunch of mind-bending for happily bendable minds.