We are now into the third chapter in Nigel Hems' literary career on Amazon Kindle, and already it is clear that this is writer with a bold and brilliant future. The Figures are reminiscent of Tod Browning's Freaks (1932) that melt into a primeval swamp of revenge, blended with hints of Kafkaesque judgement and a creepy chess game played out on an unfamiliar stage. Once again, there is Nigel Hems familiar motif of a supposed 'innocent' caught in a web that he (usually a 'he') does not understand.
A disguise is proposed by the Figures for the Man to borrow. This disguise seems to me to be symbolic of the disguise we must all wear to adapt to a increasingly 'name-badge' oriented society. Perhaps the figures are trying to help the un-named Man. Perhaps their insanity is the reality that we must all now adapt to in order to survive. The Figures are themselves in disguise. Is the Cobbler really a cobbler? What is the true identity of the Conductor? Will we ever truly know?
Can we escape these identities or do they imprison us. ‘You have your conscience. This is all you were promised.’ is one of the last - and subtly brutal - fragments of dialogue in the story. Indeed. We do have our conscience, but how much do circumstances prevent us from exercising it?
Although 'The Letter' was an interesting novella, The Figures recaptures the brevity of his first work 'Events'. It shows that Nigel Hems is at home with both the short-story and novella formats, and this third Kindle Edition work is an essential part of any fan's collection.
This is perhaps Nigel Hems' most accessible work to date. For those people who struggled to grasp some of the deeper philosophical themes that are embedded through his writings, this is perhaps the best place to start. This is certainly a story that, with the right marketing, could outsell every other story that Nigel Hems has written so far. The change in style is noticeable. Atherfield's Final Formula may disappoint lovers of his more cryptic works, but what's wrong with that? It shows that this is writer who is comfortable with writing in numerous formats without losing the continuity of form that we have come to expect from him.
To the charge that this is a more 'commercial' work, well, I would have to say yes, in my view, but it's none the worse for that.
The story deals with a scientist who has to make a moral choice between allowing his findings to be published and obeying his spiritual and moral conscience. Or at least, that seems on the surface to be what the story is about. I don't want to give the plot away!
It may seem odd to say it, but Atherfield's Final Formula reads like the lyrics of a very modern, very English pop song in the disenchanted mould of Pink Floyd or The Smiths. But as with classic English rock melancholia, there is a twist at the end that is disturbing in its implications.
As with any 'indie' artist, occasionally there are hits sung not only by university students and intellectuals, but the plainest of folk. Nigel Hems has a No.1 hit on his hands without having to abandon his 'indie' credentials one little bit. He should start opening the champagne. In years to come, he will angrily have to remind people he has written other stories when they keep going on about this one. This story deserves to be the one that he will come to hate, the one people come up to him in the street and quote from until he is sick of it.
Nigel Hems has reached out to the world and invited it to respond. Will you?