Manderlay is an ex-sailor and musician living in an Edinburgh care home, where his body is slowly succumbing to arthritis. He exists on dreams and memories, sharing both with his friend Valentine, who is similarly attempting to cope with the indignities of ageing. But even the sweetest of Manderlay’s dreams rapidly descends into nightmare, and although Valentine ascribes them to wild imagination and bad indigestion, Manderlay knows better. In his dreams he meets a young soldier who sends him on a perilous journey, and if he is going to complete the journey successfully Manderlay must never wake up. It is a journey to an island where a nightmarish King awaits, and one of Manderlay’s long forgotten musical compositions is his only map to reaching the island safely.
En route, he must defeat other Sleepwalkers and dark entities who are also in search of the island, and he will befriend a sleepwalking woman who may or may not hold the key to everything. Or has he already given the key away? Travelling in an airship that feels as alive as he is, Manderlay proceeds through an intensely vivid, hugely emotional dreamscape towards a shadowy Capital where he will face the greatest dangers of all.
Metronome is a remarkable novel, a crafty and brilliant interweaving of the real and the imaginary, the sleeping and the waking, the dark and the light. Oliver Langmead’s previous book Dark Star made a very strong impression but this follow-up is even better. It is a hero’s quest unlike anything this writer has ever read before, richly textured and studded with some truly affecting imagery. Langmead understands the landscape of nightmares and the tortures of waning mortality, and he has captured the organic surreality of the dream state like lightning in a bottle. With its shades of the tarot, its nod towards the secrets of alchemy, and the genius Jules Verne-ness of the wonderful steampunk airship Manderlay finds himself travelling within, this is a book that speaks to the subconscious and is genuinely thrilling to read. We’ll also bet that it’s going to be a book that is very hard to forget.
METRONOME / AUTHOR: OLIVER LANGMEAD / PUBLISHER: UNSUNG STORIES / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW