Thin Air by Storm Constantine (book review).

There are times when you have read a brilliant book and are a little nervous about starting a new one, convinced that the next read will seem a poor second-rater in comparison. Having just finished one of the best fantasy novels I have read for a very long time (‘Words Of Radiance’ by Brandon Sanderson if you really want to know), I approached ‘Thin Air’ with trepidation. I needn’t have worried.


The inspiration for this novel, ‘Thin Air’ by Storm Constantine, was the disappearance of Richie Edwards, a musician with Manic Street Preachers. He has never been seen since, dead or alive.

In ‘Thin Air’, it is Dex, a rock singer, who disappears. His car is found but there is no sign of him. The assumption is that he committed suicide. His partner, Jay, cannot understand it. The opening chapters of the novel depict, powerfully and sensitively Jay’s attempts to cope with grief. Not knowing if he is dead or alive or the reasons for his disappearance makes the situation harder to deal with. There is always that wonder if it was her he was getting away from. The memories of how they met seven years earlier and their developing relationship don’t seem to help. Loss takes time to recover from and, three years later, the wounds are opened again. By this time, she believes that she is putting Dex behind her. She is working again – Jay is a journalist specialising in free-lance article on the music industry – and has a new lover.

Her acceptance begins to unravel when first a documentary of Dex’s career is shown on TV, then Zeke Michaels calls. He runs the recording company, Sakrilege, that Dex was contracted to. He claims that Dex has been seen in London and accuses Jay of knowing where he is. Upset by Michaels’ attitude, she decides to try and find out more about the reasons for Dex’s disappearance. He had never talked about his background but she knows that he had a sister and is determined to find her.

She comes back knowing a lot more about Dex than she did but returns to find her normal life disintegrating. She is unaware that Michaels’ boss, Rhys Lorrance, has instigated a vendetta against her simply because he thinks she knows more about Dex’s disappearance than she does. Driven out of her home by a deceitful boyfriend and denied work, she flees. Effectively, she suffers a mental breakdown. The place Jay finds herself in is a place that may or may not exist. To her perceptions, it is a village from which she cannot leave. None of the people living there can, partly because they don’t want to and  partly because it is easier to stay. It is a place to restore equilibrium. In many ways, this is the weakest part of the novel. It has echoes of others scenarios such as ‘The Prisoner’, though she isn’t trying very hard to escape. At least, not at first. A number of fantasy novels use the device of the roads out always leading you back. Lestholme is like this but as it is a refuge, perhaps the inhabitants don’t want to return to the problems of the real world that they have come here to escape.

This book manages to combine a range of themes, ideas and concepts, woven together with emotion. There are aspects of the surreal and the bizarre running beside deception, grief and the supernatural. Above all, it is a pleasure to read.

Pauline Morgan

March 2015

(pub: Immanion Press, Stafford, UK,2010. 290 page enlarged paperback. Price: £12.99 (UK), $21.99 (US). ISBN: 978-1-907737-00-8)

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