It’s books like this that make me wonder…just how much pure literary gold is hiding out there that I might not stumble across? Kingdom is published by Hull publishing house Wrecking Ball Press and it is absolute magic. Many many people need to discover this and read it.
“My name is Alistair Kingdom and I was born a ghost…”
A stranger appears in a prison library and assaults a guard. Locked in solitary confinement, he tells the story of his life and death.
Kingdom is the dark, achingly grotesque and somewhat third novel by Russ Litten.
This is such a unique book, with a concept that I’ve never seen tackled before and a flawless narrative that sweeps you along with the main character as he goes through an emotional and fascinating journey.
Alistair Kingdom wakes up in a dirty, dilapidated house one day with no memory of who he is or where he is. As we follow his story throughout the book, he slowly begins to realise that he has no physical presence and that no one can see him or hear him. What follows is his emotional AND physical quest to remember who he is, what’s happened to him and how he can escape this Hell in which he’s found himself.
The writing style is emotive, it is very funny, it’s chatty and, remarkably, it made me relate to the character despite his baffling situation. You never lose that hunger to find out what his story is and it keeps you gripped throughout the book. When you do find out who he is after a series of suggestions and hints and revelations throughout the book, you are taken completely by surprise, and my God is it a powerful realisation! You think, ‘I should have known this all along.’ The assumptions I made throughout, which seemed so obvious at the time, were suddenly blown to pieces by the truth of it and that’s why it makes such a lasting impression.
One quite interesting aspect of the writing style is that it jumps from present tense to past tense from paragraph to paragraph. For example:
“Door. I could not remember it. I groped about for it. Door, door, door. The word wouldn’t come. It bothered me. Other words had come, like wall and snake and sky and grass and roof. Why not door? Why the gap?
I can’t work it out and I can feel the frustration building inside…so after a time I give up, I abandon the mental quest and I’m wandering around the garden, restless, trying to distract myself, trying to fasten on to anything familiar.”
This really worked effectively in my view, in that it a) managed to convey that sense of confusion and lack of time perception that plagues Alistair, and b) feels more realistic in terms of how people actually speak in conversation. They don’t stick religiously to one tense in story telling, especially of this nature, and as the whole book is Alistair relaying his story in conversation with a prison officer, it just makes the novel feel so much more authentic. It’s a real demonstration as to how writing “rules” could often hinder rather than help, as there would be many who would say that this book breaks narrative and writing rules. But to me, it’s a big success on the part of Russ Litten.
It is such a bright and vibrant piece of writing and every description is so rich and brings the image so clearly into the reader’s mind. It really is talented writing. It allows us as readers to rediscover the world again just as Alistair does, through a new pair of eyes that haven’t seen everything already.
I also love the characters in this book. Gemma, the girl Alistair inadvertently falls in love with; the small vulnerable boy Ryan who he grows attached to, the various men he detests on moral grounds. Each character conjures a new human emotion in Alistair and makes him a little bit more human with each new experience or interaction. As he slowly becomes more material and gets his senses back, humans and other ghosts continue to affect and influence him in a number of different ways. It is fascinating to see how people have such an effect on one person and it is very expertly done.
Mr and Mrs Reader, you MUST pick up this brilliant book and read it. You won’t have another experience quite like it.