Monday 21 April 2014

Savage Amusement.

The name Daryl has two possible derivations - from Middle English, meaning a place of wild animals, or Old French meaning "little darling" thereby pretty much covering both extremes of human behaviour. The 1985 science fiction film D.A.R.Y.L. featured as its eponymous hero a boy whose brain is a computer housed in a human body. Little wonder then that Gary Fry has chosen the name for the main character in his new novella Savage from DarkFuse which provides another blend of psychology and horror which is fast becoming the author's trademark.
(Of course, it may be that he's just a fan of Hall & Oates but as a theory I have to say that I can't go for that).
Savage finds the aforementioned Daryl - a cognitive scientist - in an isolated part of the Yorkshire countryside, seeking petrol for his car which is running low on his journey home from a conference in Durham. He stumbles into an area where the landscape seems too clean and precise, too ordered to be entirely natural and, within it, a village whose inhabitants reflect that unnaturalness, staid and formal - a group who make Presbyterians hedonistic by comparison. An encounter with a young woman provides some enlightenment when she asks whether he is one of the undisciplined...
Savage explores similar themes to Gary's novel Severed - the conflict between the extremes of human nature and behaviour. Are we animals kept in check by a sophisticated computer or is the programming of that computer flawed thus leading to indiscipline? There's much imagery employed here to reinforce the arguments, the disciplined world all hard angles and precision whilst the "savage" components are - well, I won't spoil it here but suffice to say the embodiment of the darker side of human nature is not something you would want to bump into on a dark night. There's even a self-referential sacrificial squirrel - which is possibly the most surreal sentence I've ever written.
There's a lot going on here, issues of perception are also raised and how context and environment play a significant role in how "others" are perceived but this actually leads to my only criticism of Savage - that it's really too short to do justice to the themes being explored. The reduced word count has given it a feel of being crammed in, magnifying the contrived feel to the narrative. A higher word count would have given the ideas more room for manoeuvre, space to breathe and allowed more subtlety.
A minor criticism however, as with all of Gary's other works Savage will stimulate the intellect whilst at the same time providing an entertaining read. It's available from DarkFuse in June. Not buying it would be a significant error of judgement...

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