This is an intriguing ‘what if?’ novella, set in the near-future of ‘next year’, about a moment of shared consciousness and what it might mean for mankind. The story is told from several perspectives; mainly two of the people who experienced the event and those who report on the phenomenon, as they try to unravel the sensations they shared and what lies behind them.
For the ultra-religious, the event is the start of the ‘rapture’ and they embrace the apocalyptic possibility of the end of days. Scientists struggle to explain the shared experiences which have affected millions of people on the planet. It might be a natural event, but why then have so many people experienced it in so many different ways?
In England, one person among the millions, Jack Clarke, has a unique experience during the event, and the story follows his journey to understand the rapture – a journey which leads him to Lavender Hill.
Author Patrick Garland is a neuroscientist and he uses fiction to play around with the possibilities of the evolution of the mind, in what he calls ‘neuroscience fiction.’ The theme here is an interesting one – familiar to anyone who remembers the concept of ‘coadunation’ from Julian’s May’s magnificent Many Coloured Land series – although the story in Lavender Hill is a little clunky in the telling by comparison. The brash TV news producer and the heavy-handed MI5 guys are all straight out of central casting… but the main character and his desire to live a more natural life, in tune with the elements, is an interesting one. There’s a real sense of being on the cusp on something positive and uplifting, if only the protagonists can overcome the worst aspects of human nature to embrace it.
Lavender Hill is an easy read, an enjoyable afternoon’s entertainment. The writing is straightforward – it’s obviously not a polished manuscript from an experienced professional but it made for a thought-provoking interlude between full-size novels; one which sets up an interesting avenue for future stories in a world of new possibilities. Like an episode of the X-Files (with which it shares quite a few similarities, now I come to think of it; and isn’t that cover art just so Mulder and Scully?), Lavender Hill draws to a close without tying up every loose end. It asks as many questions as it answers: you probably shouldn’t start reading it if you’re the sort of person who needs everything tidily resolved in the final chapter.
The author’s scientific expertise definitely adds authenticity to the speculation, and I’d be interested to read more from Patrick Garland – especially if he continues to explore aspects of neuroscience and metaphysics.
Reviewed by Rowena Hoseason
Lavender Hill by PJ Garland is available as an ebook at Amazon
The author has also published a longer neuroscience fiction story, A Brave Pause