Tom Lee’s clipped, cold-blooded sentences form a thin mantle over the sinisterly simmering plot of this mesmerising first novel, inspired by the author’s own experience of incapacitating health problems.
It is hard not to think of Kafka’s Metamorphosis when reading the book, partly because Lee’s writing, too, pulses with humour and an appreciation of the abject silliness of human beings ... [Lee] writes with a needle, and with a short-story master’s eye for structure. And although the plot is not predictable, when it yields its twists, they feel satisfyingly right.
The self-assurance of Lee’s prose is, however, far more secure here [than in his previous short story collection] ... Occasionally [Lee] succumbs to cliché... but for the most part Lee’s prose is marked by an understated descriptive acuity. His eye for detail is sharp ... he narrative concludes with a twist of sorts (it is not hard to foresee), but the real accomplishment of Tom Lee’s novel is its haunting evocation of the insidiously dystopian climate of English suburbia.
There is something of the creepy campfire tale to this book ... Mr. Lee’s book loses some of its latent horror by being stretched into a novel, even a short one. Yet there are moments—sudden ghostly noises and involuntary spasms—that make us see the well-mown suburbs as James does, a 'brittle veneer on reality, one that might fracture or shatter entirely at any time.'
[Lee] has a pronounced ability to take normal, even mundane situations and nudge them out of true, propelling his characters into positions of strangeness and danger that they are often fatally slow to identify ... Lee has darkly comic fun with the authoritarianism such bodies can exhibit ... the tight focus Lee brings to bear on [disintegration of suburban security] increases the tension, and makes it impossible for us as readers to accurately gauge each situation we encounter, or, increasingly, endure alongside James.
... astonishing and riveting ... Lee uses James’s crack-up to explore the disorienting effects of changes large and small, sudden and gradual, and the result is a perfectly calibrated absurdist novel that amuses and unnerves in equal measure.