Published by DarkFuse in March 2013
When a retired teacher looks after his young grandson, he discovers more than mysterious cones on the beach. The two of them find their deficiencies counterbalance each other making their loving relationship able to combat menacing phenomenon.
I’ve always rebelled against symmetry but there are moments when I can appreciate it, such as the Parthenon although seeing higgledy-piggeldy residences on a Spanish hilltop in random shapes pleases me more. I was the one who graffitied my sixth-form college with “Entropy will win” and yet when I encountered a pattern, even aspects of fearful symmetry in Emergence, it brought a warmth, a smile of appreciation.
The symmetries are more balances such as new and old, the emergence [sic] of understanding in a young boy versus the decline in the facilities of the senior character; the strangeness inherent in written alphanumeric characters when examined minutely by granddad finds resonance in the boy’s dyslexia then again later in the plot. Mention of which I ought to allude to for this review’s readers. Spot the similarities in my life – a coincidence?
A mother leaves her seven-year-old son, Paul, in the charge of Jack, his widowed grandfather. I too, am occasionally obliged (with pleasure) to supervise and edutain grandchildren. Jack is a retired teacher and so am I. Beautiful phrasing here “He’d been a good teacher, before cultural conditions had become so challenging that the task of pedagogy had been usurped by damage limitation.” Every former teacher will be nodding reading that. Jack is in his sixties, so am I. Jack lives on the coast of North East England – I don’t but my dad did, and I have been known to scramble for miles along the beaches looking for fossils and semi-precious stones. Jack finds conical objects sticking out of the beach. I found ichthyosaurus bones (and coprolite – fossil poo) on a beach. Grandson Paul and Jack get as excited about their beach discoveries as I do with mine, but there the story reaches the edginess of rationality allowing spooky paranormality to weave its ‘magic’ into the plot.
We don’t know the precise location of Jack’s house except that it is far enough away from the ‘silver tsunami of old people’ in estates of the elderly inhabiting many coastal honey pots around Britain.
Jack worries about a possible onset of dementia manifested by a recent difficulty with reading. He ought to consider AMD as the cause and treat other symptoms of old age with denial, as I do. Some aspects of life are immutable to Jack – and to all of us – such as “boys playing in sand is an inviolable cosmic rule”. A concept finding symmetry later.
Events in Emergence become more dramatic both on the beach and in Jack’s bungalow. He’s remarkably cool, considering the accelerating of weirdness happening in their isolated location, and he’s the responsibility of being in charge of Paul, but then the lad has skills offsetting Jack’s out-of-date expertise. The boy comes up with hypotheses for the oddities happening.
Although there is a science fantasy theme here, the story is more about the relationship between a grandfather and his grandson. It is beautifully crafted. Look out AL Kennedy and MR James even if they marry and produce literary offspring.
It could be said that there is a danger of both characters being too affable and the conflict in the narrative relies on the plot events. However, both man and boy have problems, which present their own conflicts resolved to an extent by them both having a meeting of minds – met my mind too.
Jack’s wife was a teacher, and so is mine. A gathering of coincidences then as I suggest above? No, although Gary Fry knows little about my life we now have proof of quantum entanglement. I am merely a particle of an atom, the other particle of which is a pen on the coast near Whitby. More stories like this and there will be a tsunami of literary tourists plaguing the Fry hideaway. Be warned.
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