The puzzle pieces... illustrate the complexity — and heartbreaking arduousness — of healing severe wounds from long ago. The novel’s formal dexterity — story within a story, fiction highlighting its fictiveness, ‘real’ character conversing with his ‘fictional’ creation — is immersive and intriguing. Arguably, chapter by chapter, the technique offers diminishing returns ... Ultimately, Chong, like Benson, declines to offer any logical explanation. And while, in the end, Benson confronts a villain and achieves a degree of heroic redemption, the problematic setting has a corrosive effect. Akin to dodgy CGI, it draws the eye to material that diminishes the overall success of the picture.
Part 1 of Chong’s novel unfolds in a present-tense voice, as though Benson is narrating Benny’s tale in real time, as it comes to him. The format holds the reader at a remove, complicating efforts to connect with the story or its characters. Part 2 is more successful, offering depth-conferring glimpses into the minds of both Benny and Benson, but the climax, while earned, proves less cathartic than disturbing.