Ralph and the Purple Fly Paperback – 24 Jun 2014
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About the Author
Christopher was born Yorkshire where he now lives with his partner. He has a degree in English Literature and an MA in Creative Writing. Ralph and the Purple Fly is his first novel and the sequel is currently being drafted.
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I found myself completely gripped by the final two chapters, slowing my reading pace hugely in an effort to cling to ever word and not miss a thing.
You will certainly have to be in the mood for something oddly intriguing to enjoy this; and do not mistake it for sci-fi, because that is far from what it is. The style hangs somewhere between a Franz Kafka modernist tale and something written by H G Wells. There really is a traditional element to this rather mad book, which you may want to cling to like a life raft!?! :]
While this is not a genre I would generally read I would highly suggest giving this a go. It a great read.
For me, it leaves me with two ongoing thoughts; firstly, i just have to read it again, not because it didnt make sense, but quite simply because i want to encounter Conrads world again, i want to answer the questions i have been left with myself. Novels that provide you with the answers leave nothing to the imagination, thankfully this is quite the opposite!
Secondly, i look foward to the authors future novels!
Brunt's book creates a world where we are not sure quite what is happening until he starts to unravel the plot and give clues about the demise of the enigmatic Prof. Conrad Constant. It is a page-turner with the pace quickening midway through and keeping the tension building until the end. The premise behind the story is not like anything else you will have read and we are swept up in it so that reason is suspended and we just have to go with it. I was particularly impressed with the dialogue he uses; it makes it so that we can practically see the characters. The author does a great job of letting us inside the confused mind of his protagonist...yet, we are oddly with him when it appears that perhaps he is not so crazy after all. A unique book that I am glad to have read and can definitely recommend.
Having reached the pinnacle of plant biology, Professor Conrad Constant has set himself two new goals: to overcome the laws of nature themselves; and to become Head of Department. Determined to succeed at any cost, he finds himself under attack from both a new bizarre form of life and his former colleagues.
Starting with the entirely plausible, if claustrophobic, world of university bickering and then introducing broad references to Constant’s research, Brunt smoothly increases the level of oddity such that when the narrative turns to an argument over the last can of fly spray in the entire city the reader feels the absurdity but not the implausibility.
The rest of the narrative unravels along the same course from unusual to believably impossible. Maintaining Constant as an unreliable narrator throughout, the descriptions provide plenty for the reader to enjoy and analyse without ever providing the certainty needed to separate reality from fevered imagination.
Unfortunately, especially for a story dealing with possible misconception, Brunt’s style of breaking a single character’s speech into short paragraphs interspersed with brief action sometimes left it unclear whether it was a continuation of the same speaker or a new speaker.
Conrad is a bitter, venal, and arrogant man. But he is also shunned, surrounded by equally venal men, and brilliant. While he is not a pleasant man, Brunt’s mixture of distasteful characteristics with circumstances that excuse some of his decisions makes him a compelling protagonist.
The supporting cast is similarly blessed with a good mix of distinctive traits and nuanced behaviour, extending even to the non-human characters. Both Constant’s dog-come-room-mate Ralph and the first, fat, purple fly to assault Constant read like separate stories intersecting this one rather than mere advancers of the plot.
I enjoyed this book, although I will be leaving it on the shelf for a while before re-reading it. I recommend it to readers looking for the confusion of Kafka without the soul-crushing nihilism.
I received a free copy of this novella in exchange for a fair review.