Splinters by Tom Sheppard (book review).

Splinters is a world-spanning account of the battle between good and evil. It begins with a bolt of lightning striking an old oak tree, thereby sending the spirit of long dead people back to Earth. The wood from this tree is made into many items including furniture and the handle of a sniper rifle. Contact with these various wooden items is the vector the spirits use to affect the lives of mortal humans. A splinter in the thigh is how Esther Clayton becomes one such person. The positive spirit contained in the splinter changes her fate on numerous occasions and leads her to great worldly success. This success is another means to get the oak into contact with those in a position of power.


At the same time, that positive forces are at work, negative spirits are influencing others in an attempt to oppose the good being brought to Earth from the spirit realm.

I am sorry to have written the above. It is my best attempt to describe one of the least-clear novels I have read in some time. The use, in storytelling, of a number of seemingly unrelated story arcs, which eventually link in an interesting and coherent way is well-used. This story, on the other hand, is an unrelenting series of unrelated stories which pop into the narrative for a page or two, add little to the overall story and then vanish with barely a ripple. The effect is that of a series of clicks increasing in frequency and becoming a high-pitched whine.

Eventually, a few characters survive the culling. These people undertake a series of moral hurdles where an immoral decision often leads to the character’s wood-based death.

Tony Sheppard uses a very unusual storytelling style. The story begins in the year 2050 we are told. Two people investigate an old house and find within it some old photographs. One of the two recognise a woman in a photo as a fleetingly famous movie star. He then begins to recount the story of her life and the novel begins in the 1950s. The question is why even bother with the whole 2050 plot? It adds nothing to the main story and we don’t seem to progress in the main story beyond the 2000s. It feels to me like a literary trap to capture innocent SF fans flicking through the first few pages. These genre traps do not end here. The cover notes describe the story as ‘A thought-provoking, yet erotic, thriller/fantasy…‘ I know the whole concept of what is erotic is a very subjective one. I am pretty sure some implied incestuous fantasising, a brief lesbian encounter and a murderous shower fumble score pretty low on the sexual fantasy front.

It is skating on even thinner ice when exploring the books morality. It touches on recently historical acts of religious terrorism. I cannot begin to suggest a fix for the religious woes inflicted by extremists, but I am pretty sure the answer isn’t more religion. The answer contained in this book is always go to church more. You turn your back on the church in this book and things will end badly for you. The spiritualism implied in the returning souls, seems strangely at odds with the brand of Christianity promoted throughout (possibly Methodism or similar established Protestantism).

I am unsure to whom this book would appeal. Fans of SF and erotic fiction should certainly avoid it. Possibly theological or philosophical students would enjoy it?

Andy Bollan

November 2013

(pub: Matador/Troubador Publishing. 351 page enlarged paperback. Price: £ 9.99 (UK). ISBN: 1-905886-09-8)

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