“…Like we’d never shared in the sea’s flotsam and jetsam; the dead whales, a leather backed turtle once, big as a coffee table. The dead bodies even, now and then, stranded in sleep with water trickling lazily from silent terracotta mouths. We were seeing for the first time the ocean’s unwanted bounty. The cat-like way it brought you presents you didn’t much care for. A dividend you didn’t want but could not return…”
Along with the strange flotsam of the sea, the aptly named John Love drifts in on the grey tide to an island off the northwest English coast. The stranger, both bedazzling and unnerving, affects an immediate messianic glow upon the bladder-wracked community of odds and sods, making disciples of the most unlikely characters.
Chris Hill knows island life intimately as a native of Walney Island just off the coast of Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, at the northern tip of Morecambe Bay. This, the largest of the Furness Island group, forms a fitting and atmospheric backdrop in the same way that William Golding’s unnamed Pacific Island captivates the reader in his masterful Lord of the Flies, or perhaps other great island narratives from the likes of H.G Wells, J.G Ballard, and R.L. Stevenson. Hill’s visionary and delightfully bizarre novel reads like the gospel for a neophyte religion spawning in the sea foam among strange goings-on. It examines how destiny is the result of the collective will, especially among tribal folk who forever yearn to conform to ancient cants and creeds. The Island IS the novel, all encapsulating, internally rugged, and rounded with the sleep of the unknown.
Song of the Sea God, has already been shortlisted (under a previous title, The Longing) for the Daily Telegraph first novel prize and the Yeovil Prize for Literature. A first full novel, it reflects Hill’s deep interest in the sociological and psychological aspects of religion. As he attests on his online blog, the author is “interested in writing about how people come to believe in a religion and the emotional investment they make in it, as well as how similar themes and ideas echo across different religions throughout history.” Indeed it becomes part of the literary allegorical tradition, offering another great work that uses symbolic figures to express thoughts or ideas about the collective human condition. Like all great allegories it is packed with dual and overlapping meanings, both literal and symbolic, in crafting an extended metaphor that allures throughout the entire course of the novel. It stands with other great allegories of god-like figures; John Fowles’ The Magus (another island romp), Michael Moorcock’s Behold the Man, and more recently Chris Moore’s Lamb – to name but a few.
Song of the Sea God comes from both the ancient incantations of history and mythology and the awkward cadences of the modern age. The plot is riddled with humour and pathos, which will delight fans of the contemporary British literary novel. With rich symbolism and delicious twists of irony, Hill takes the reader on a microcosmic wild ride in a story told by a mute that starts in a pub called The Vengeance. Along the way the reader is treated to a feast of psychotic musings that somehow manages to include miracles, Tip Rats, plastic ducks, the life of pebbles, and a Diary of Stools. It is both shocking and riotously funny. The plot twists are gripping, the characterization compelling, and the final commentary on the human potential, for good or ill, is riveting. Skylight Press is thrilled to publish such a wonderful first novel from this striking new fiction writer. Try a slice of Island life and hark the Song of the Sea God.
Song of the Sea God is available from various retail outlets such as Amazon, Amazon UK, or direct from the Skylight Press website. It will soon be available as an eBook in the Kindle format.