‘The Sand Men’ Is Out Today!
I had a lot of self-doubt while writing The Sand Men. It doesn’t conform to the traditional shape of a novel, and it has an unusual trick up its sleeve. There are two central dramas, one of which is resolved, and one of which is left open. There’s also a third puzzle in the book about the main protagonist. And what is the book anyway, SF, crime, psychological suspense, satire even? Once it has been out for a while I’ll do a Q&A on a few of these questions and will point readers to the answers.
So you can imagine that I was concerned as to how it would be received. My first review came from a new magazine called ‘CrimeScene’, which worried me, as the mag is mainly about police procedural TV shows, and ‘The Sand Men’ doesn’t fit into that category at all. The reviewer liked the book and said it had ‘haunting images’ but added that he didn’t understand the ending. Well, that’s fine, it was by a crime reviewer. ‘Starburst’, in the other hand, covers edge/mainstream/ SF/ fantasy and has been going from strength to strength in the last couple of years, adding a digital edition that’s as slick as the paper version. Here’s what they have to say…
Christopher Fowler continues to get better with every novel. His latest book, The Sand Men, is both more of the same for fans of his work and at the same time something original and unique that should delight any reader.
The novel focuses on a small family of middle-class English people who move to Dubai to exploit a job offer that seems too good to be true. Roy is a civil engineer whose expertise is crucial to the construction of Dream World, a futuristic beach complex for the super-rich. Roy has dragged his wife Lea and their 15-year-old daughter Cara to live in a gated community reserved for foreign workers.
As the daughter grows more distant and involved with the other foreign youngsters in the community, Lea begins to suspect something is desperately wrong. Not only is there a pattern of young girls going missing, the local menial workers are being forced to life in awful conditions. Lea suspects deliberate cruelty and slowly uncovers an ancient conspiracy of evil.
This is a story that is about teenage rebellion, the power of the patriarchy, the effects of globalisation and how easy it is to overlook the obvious. Though it appears to have a similar format to Fowler’s previous book, Nyctophobia, it’s as different from that book as day is from night.
From the tragic and horrific death of a construction worker in the opening chapter, which is both prosaic and chilling, to the strong and steady conclusion, The Sand Men is a powerful book. The themes should be familiar to anyone with a whiff of political awareness. Lea is an especially interesting character; much of the book is from her perspective and her western biases and foibles become an obvious plot point as we approach the middle of the work. There is also a rather lovely EM Forster reference, and well as very particular inspiration from The Wizard of Oz that highlights the stranger in a strange land theme that lends power to the haunting and peculiar conclusion.
The Sand Men is a staggering read and should be on your bookshelf.
The Sand Men is a paperback original, published by Rebellion, priced £6.50