Life on the Suburban Fringe by S.R.Noss
This section is the one where I will be posting the rationale behind certain chapters. So take 5 to have a look after you read so you can understand something of what I was trying to do (that’s the bit in italics) and then email me to tell me just why you didn’t get it!! (or perhaps liked it or think it worked)
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– Chapter 3: Escapism
Chapter continues where chapter 2 left off, aiming to contextualize Marty’s life and his version of normality. In this chapter we meet two principal elements; Big Tony and his bookshop, which is a front for a more black market operation and Mr Samson. Both characters will be of significance as the story progresses. It is also important to show how Marty’s life is one lived on a series of edges (hence partly the books name). In working for Tony, Marty is working within the black market economy, albeit in an innocent role whilst in continuing to care for his Grandfather, Marty lives on the fringes of society and the suburbia that he inhabits. Thus chapter 3, like 2, provides us with greater context. But the plot does continue and thanks to Mr Samson, Marty is about to find out what the mysterious phone call actually said.
– Chapter 2: Grandad and Al
Chapter 2 is the chronological start point for the narrative. It is set on Wednesday 1st nov 1989. The chapter’s title is reflective of the storyline in the opening scene. Marty, caring for his grandfather, is living a life of monotony that is regularly punctuated by the arrival of Al. The question to resolve here is who, or what, is Al? That Wednesday is chosen as the chronological start as Marty experiences two unexpected events; firstly a package, seemingly delivered to the wrong address, containing computer disks. Secondly a mysterious phone call late a night. With these two events the narrative begins as the humdrum certainty of Marty’s life begins to slowly but surely unravel.
Chapter 2 is one of those that could easily slow the whole pace of the book down yet is crucial to starting the story. The reader has to see the humdrum normality of Marty’s life and Artur’s condition to understand both of them and the journey’s they go through in the stories that follow. What is just as important is to realise that, at this point, Marty is a normal guy that abnormal things start happening to. His reactions to events are not those of a trained professional but rather more a bumbling amateur trying to get to grips with a world he doesn’t fully understand.
Qs: So the questions for this chapter are: Does the pace get slowed down? Are the two unexpected events a bit of a clique? Do we realise too quickly or not quickly enough what Al represents?
– Chapter 1: The Beginning of the End
The opening of the book proper. Well, in a way! The book begins with the first half of the end. Its New Years Eve 1989 and slowly it is revealed that our main character Marty is sat with his sick Grandfather, counting his breaths, waiting for him to die. Steadily it is revealed that something has happened to Marty and he is a changed man. The chapter ends with Marty clasping a pillow to his chest and we are left wondering if he is going to use it or not. It seems a critical moment. Undecided, Marty begins to talk, telling his Grandfather what has happened to him over the previous 2 months and the effect its had.
The atmosphere of chapter 1 is intentionally designed to be dark and oppressive as it reflects Marty’s mood and environment. The scenes move towards light but ultimately end with the darkest moment in the book, the moment where Marty contemplates murdering his own Grandfather. We are left with this plot cliffhanger throughout the book as the narrative seeks to unravel what has happened to make Marty contemplate this.
Qs: Does it work? Do you find yourself wanting to know more?
– The Prologue – The Letter (Soli’s Story)
Set in 2052, the prologue to the book has provoked both admiration and confusion in equal measure. It’s not sci-fi, despite being set in a future that’s recognisable but different to our own. It is a world that is part product of the stories that precede it. It briefly tells the beginning of Soli’s story, which starts with the death of his father in Geneva. His father is Marty (now named Quinn rather than Golanski we partly find out why he changes his name in book 1 and the rest in book 3) who is the main protagonist of the stories and the narrator of book 1 (life on the suburban fringe). The letter tells of Soli’s bequest, left by Marty, that begins to open up a secret, dark past that will grow bigger and more deadly with each book until we reach the climatic last, Soli’s story.
Theres still a nagging issue with the prologue. It’s a good little story and as a cut down form of the 4th books opening it works well enough. But in manuscript form, rather than book, it does mislead the reader who goes straight from an opening in the future with one character to suddenly its chapter 1, 1989 and another new character.
Qs: So I think its one of those nice ideas that perhaps needs to be put aside for drafting the manuscript. What do you think? Does it confuse the story and opening? Does it work? Is it a good idea or not?