Book Review - The Dig by Cynan Jones
Much like the setting of the story, this book is dark and moody, and I'm not going to lie, it's a little depressing too. Yet somehow Jones not only makes the telling of it bearable, he also manages to ease the gloom over you so tightly that you begin to get transfixed by the landscape, and almost feel at home in its bleakness. Now that might not sound like much fun, but fiction is the vessel to transport us to places we could never imagine, and even if we are not too comfortable in those places, if the story is told with just the right amount of skill, we never leave without having grown. And all good stories leave their mark, and Jones manages to do that over a very brief canvas. I've read countless novels of great length, only to wish that they had had more brevity, and this certainly delivers a strong punch from a small fist.
The story itself is about the interlocking fate of two characters that exist on the same dark landscape, like two trees withering out the same storm. However it soon becomes clear that both of the central characters of Daniel, and the Big Man, are very different from each other. One certainly fits the role of protagonist, and the other is definitely an antagonist. Jones certainly gives us plenty of sinister undertones in the scenes with the Big Man, and the world itself seems much darker and twisted through his eyes, but although Daniel has lost his wife to a tragic and graphic accident of nature, his passages are imbued with a more moving style more akin to poetry than prose, even in the scenes that involve the difficult visions that spring from the terrible event that ended his wife's life. I can only assume that this was a conscious decision by the author, and it works to great effect.
So I strongly recommend this book, as though it certainly is a brief read, it has very strong and well portrayed characters that are brought to life by Jones' skilful hand, and the story is at times so tragic, you can't help but be changed by it, and in the end feel that you yourself have walked through that country, and felt the darkness that rides over it like a circling wind.