This supernatural tale unfolds in the town of Aberystwyth as graduate student Harry Chesterton searches for the elusive Otto Blightley in his quest to substantiate his thesis research. He gets much more than he bargained for!
This novella is compelling and fast-paced with unexpected twists and turns as Prior takes us beneath the seemingly harmless facade of Aberystwyth to reveal that not everything is as it seems. Prior's voice and tone is at once engaging, suspenseful and exciting. Although the somewhat liberal use of Welsh slang and academic-speak can sometimes leave the reader reaching for the dictionary, the writing is breathless, animated and fresh. As the story unfolds, it engages the reader very quickly. A very easy read and well-written, it is perhaps a bit too short. At times I craved more detail and explanation. Yet, despite the minimal character development, the story works extraordinarily well. Still, this tale could easily be fleshed out to a 200-300 paged novel. I would love to see what further magic Prior could work with that much additional space devoted to this story!
This is the second book I've read from Prior and I am again thoroughly impressed. Prior quickly captures the reader's interest with a teaser about who the nameless dwarf is and why he is so feared. Though Nameless' first appearance is more than 20 pages into the book, the reader is already anxious about him well before he arrives on the scene (in a way slightly reminiscent of the shark in 'Jaws'). Although the reasons behind Nameless' reputation is partially revealed in his regret-tinged ruminations later in the book, I would have liked a bit more development in this area--perhaps an encounter with someone who had narrowly escaped him previously?
The story line is suspenseful and engaging but also fun and, at times, very funny. This is quite an impressive range for such a short book!
Despite being little more than 80 pages long, the characterization is very well-developed--particularly the pathos of the Ant-Man. Without giving too much away, Prior is able to radically shift the reader's perception of this character in the space of only a few sentences. Very impressive. Likewise, his treatment of the unlikable and annoying Nils was brilliant. Early on, Prior seems to intentionally make the reader long for Nameless (or anyone) to take an axe to Nils! And of course, the lightning-fast mood swings of the manic-depressive Nameless are wonderfully executed. The level of character development in 'Ant-Man' is massively improved from that in Prior's earlier work 'Thanatos Rising'.
That said, this book suffers from the same key problem as 'Thanatos': it is too short! This story could have easily been expanded into a 200-300 page novel. I would have loved to have been able to read more...
Though, as an aside, I noticed that an important figure (Otto Blightey) from 'Thanatos' is briefly mentioned in the dwarf's recollections. There must be some connection between these two stories--although none is immediately obvious. It will be interesting to see if Prior reveals one in later books!
BTW, Theo Prior is a talented young cartographer; the map provided was icing on the cake. :-)