Erma, who is writing a book about interactive narratives for young adults, habitually plays fast and loose with the truth – the complaint against her is not unjustified – but the narrative becomes ever stranger as the fictional barbarian Sero begins to take over her dreams, and then a great deal darker as the reason for the repeated disappearances of young women is revealed. The Spiral is ambitious and well executed, with a zippy writing style, but may prove hard going for those with a low tolerance for fantasy.
Some novels defy easy classification and that’s certainly true of Spiral by Australian author Iain Ryan. To read the book is to play the game, it’s a mystery unlike any other I’ve read, it’s a fantasy adventure for grownups and a pastiche/homage to the early interactive books that came along several decades ago ... This is not my kind of book, that’s not a judgement on its quality, just a statement about my personal reading tastes. I read it to get a feel for its style and drift so that I could pass some impressions on. I did not finish Spiral and so my intention is only to give potential readers a flavour of the novel in case this might be something interests you. I think many readers will love it and I expect Spiral to be a big seller, it’s certainly well written and engaging, I enjoyed the sections of the book in the real world, I just didn’t want to engage with the fantasy or the game playing element. Caveat delivered, here are some thoughts that I hope are still useful to the prospective reader.
A major working-over of every sort of expectation ... As the Sero chapters become increasingly fantastical and sinister, there are clues to the real world embedded in them, closely mirroring the threat and foreboding that is increased with every move that Erma makes, blundering as she is into something much darker than the reader might reasonably have imagined on first encountering this cleverly devised narrator. At the same time, there’s something about Erma that will strike many readers as slightly off-kilter. There’s something about her family, the way she treats friends, her boyfriends and sexual encounters – just a hint of something, perhaps unreliable, perhaps unforgiving, it’s hard to define given everything is through Erma’s eyes ... plenty of action happening in and around the university where Erma Bridges works ... fast paced – it’s pretty well impossible to put down – and the underlying story is as shocking as it is sadly predictable in this day and age.