Almost Surely – Gavin Jefferson

Almost Surely by Gavin Jefferson

When you control the fate of others, who is in control of yours?

One of the things I love about indie books is that they often defy traditional classification. Sure, categories can help us find what we are looking for, but what if we don’t know what we are looking for until we find it? Some stories just beg to be told, no matter what genre we might later decide they should sit in.

Almost Surely is a book that breaks the genre mould. It has elements of time travel, sci-fi and low fantasy, but it feels very much like an old noir film in its styling. The way the scenes are framed, the locations, and the jazz soundtrack all add to this. There’s also a charming Murakami-like focus on the animals in the background of scenes that really brings the whole thing to life.

But onto the story. Here Jefferson has created a wonderful mythology, which I bought into from the very first page. The opening to the book introduces four Heralds, located somewhere apparently outside of our usual realms of space and time. There’s Gift, the authority that governs karma, Collector, who takes care of death, Love, and Watcher, the blind embodiment of fate. While all of these exist, looming in the background of the book, the story follows Anthony Hopper: an Agent of Influence who directs the lives of those selected by Watcher.

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The Holly King’s Apprentice: First Frost

If you haven’t read them yet, you might like to catch up with The Holly King’s Apprentice Part 1 and Part 2.

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For 6 whole days I practiced reaching the realm of Ain Soph without the Holly King’s aid. I was utterly preoccupied with the strange task that had been set for me; so much so that I did very little else. It was difficult at first, because I hadn’t a clue where to start, but with practice I found a method that worked.

The terrifying, foreboding doom that characterised my depression was like a shadow on the peripheries of my vision. I could never quite catch a glimpse of it, but if I approached with stillness of mind instead of chaotic thought and panic, it wasn’t nearly so elusive. So, I began to teach myself to shut down the offending thoughts at their root. It was as though some other part of me was persuading them to be discrete; convincing them it was a matter of life and death. It was like telling a child to stay quiet in the closet to hide from an intruder. Continue reading “The Holly King’s Apprentice: First Frost”

The Holly King’s Apprentice: Ain Soph

This is part two of a story that began here.

Orchid's Lantern blog C.R. Dudley author

The thoughts of sadness remained at bay for a couple of days. I did some shopping, painted some pictures, and saw my friend, Fred. I decided not to mention my strange new therapist to him, though the autumn leaf pendant he had gifted me tingled around my neck.

Then, on the third day, the freight train of shadows I’d been expecting hit me hard in the face. I became sure it didn’t matter if I was alive or dead, and since every little task suddenly required energy I no longer had, thoughts of the latter were never far from my mind.

I felt trapped by suffering because it was in everything. I longed for some peace: to be some place where my brain wasn’t revving in mud. This is temporary, I reminded myself, it’s the time of year. I did some activities that have helped in the past: I showered, took a walk, listened to some eighties synth pop. I called Fred but he didn’t answer, so I left him a silent voicemail. You can do all of these things though, and somehow every episode of depression still feels like an unprecedented depth. It becomes harder and harder to believe it will pass, despite experience being on your side.

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The Spell of the Sensuous – David Abram

As we have evolved, the way we understand the world around us has changed. Nature plays a less obvious part in our lives than it once did, and we pay far more attention to technological devices and man made structures. The Spell of the Sensuous aims to explore the reasons for this, and to demonstrate how we might improve our lives by reconnecting with the natural world. It is a book that successfully merges anthropology, philosophy and ecology, and I expect it will hold the intrigue of anyone with an interest in one or more of these disciplines.

A particular curiosity of mine concerns perception, and how it alters the way we experience, so I was delighted to see the book began with that aspect. Abram considers the feeling of connectedness we get when we truly immerse ourselves in our surroundings, becoming conscious of everything our senses are telling us as we do in the practice of mindfulness. He argues that we are in essence inseparable from the things we perceive, and are in a reciprocal dance with the earth, plants and animals. He relies heavily on the ideas of Maurice Merleau-Ponty as support; a philosopher I hadn’t studied before but found intriguing. Early on in the book we are given the most convincing explanation for a belief in animism I have come across.

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Party at the World’s End – James Curcio

Already being familiar with James Curcio  from his zany debut novel ‘Join My Cult’ some years ago, I was excited to discover he had published another.

Party at the World’s End is a lot of fun. It is beautifully chaotic, with events told out of order from the points of view of several different characters; sometimes in third person and sometimes first. Sometimes in recollections, in philosophical musings, in diary entries, and sometimes in dreams or hallucinations. Now I’m sure that sounds hard to follow, but it actually works so well with the subject matter and at no point did I find myself confused. After attempting to read Ulysses this was a breeze.

The theme is sex, drugs, rock and roll, with the added twist that all of the main characters are insane by most people’s reckoning; in fact the story opens with two of them escaping from a mental institution. But there is a constant question; are they really insane or are they actually enlightened through their detachment from what is ordinary? Are they just using too many drugs or are they remembering their past reincarnations as mythological beings?

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2. The Howling Woman

This is a continuation of the story that began here: The Old Woman, the Stag and Me. You may like to read that first if you haven’t already, but it isn’t a prerequisite.


As it turned out, it was the materialisation of the myth ‘The Howling Woman’ that finally gave us our omen to leave the village. Here’s how events panned out.

Among the stag’s clients there was a gentle dowager who cried almost all of the time. She had lost her daughter, she said, though there were no records of her ever having one. It was generally surmised among the village folk that what she had lost was in fact her marbles, as a result of her husband coming to grief at a trial for treason and subsequently being hanged. She lived all alone in the years that followed, and most were disdainful towards her with no rational cause. She came to the stag for a finding potion, and begged of him to take her sorrow.

Finding potions weren’t known for their usefulness when dealing with people who didn’t exist, so at first he went down the route of anguish-removal. He tried spells made from Buddhist proverbs, in attempt to align her to the idea that sorrow, like pleasure, was a fleeting thing that must be allowed to come and go like the wind. He tried filling her with warming light, that it might kindle her own inner glow. And he tried an elixir – just two drops per day – made from pure euphoria and tears of joy. It was unheard of for such things to fail, but the daughter remained lost. Putting on a jester performance raised a smile or two, but the sadness in her eyes seemed insurmountable.

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