Michael Patrick Brady


Communion Town | Sam Thompson

December 17, 2013

My review of Sam Thompson’s Communion Town ran today in the Boston Globe.

Purportedly a novel, the book consists of 10 stories, each focused on a different protagonist, and all set in the same imaginary city. Though, the details and inner workings of the city are so slippery and malleable that it’s often difficult to see any cohesion from chapter to chapter.

Thompson is obviously a well-read writer, and Communion Town offers the highly literate reader a fun game of “spot the influence,” as it skips and jumps between genres, styles, and allusions. There are homages to Raymond Chandler and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and nods to Italo Calvino and China Miéville. Thompson tries his hand at serial-killer thrillers, romance, and surrealism. His strongest story is the one that seems most his own, “The Song of Serelight Fair.” In it, a down-on-his-luck songwriter strikes up a love affair with a well-to-do lady. The characters are brilliant, and the city begins to feel like a real, living, breathing place, albeit one with an air of mystery and magic about it. Thompson’s prose is smart and engaging, though he occasionally lets his words run away with his sentences.

Communion Town is evidence of deep talent, and when Thompson does finally write a novel and lets his own voice rise above the references, it’s sure to be worth reading.

Rating: | Michael Patrick Brady

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