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BOOK REVIEW: Grey Noise by Marcus Hawke

A book with TV static behind it.

The latest novella from Marcus Hawke details the downward spiral of one Evan Grey after he finds an old CRT TV set, which begins altering his perception of reality and goading him down a dark path towards violence.

I do have to preface this review by saying Marcus is a friend and has published a couple of my stories, but I have to say I would most likely not have reviewed the book if I didn’t enjoy it, which is to say I really dug this tale of a man grappling with reality and his dark impulses which may or may not have something to do with the mysterious TV set that keeps pumping out the titular grey (and white) noise into his mind.

Evan has just opened a retro video store (not unlike Dead Video in Lyttelton also owned by an Evan!) and coincidentally finds the TV set on the side of the road on his way to work. What starts as a retro-fetishistic display piece, quickly becomes a harbinger of Evan’s deterioration, spurred on by money troubles, a previously unknown competitor, a hateful stepfather, a lazy co-worker and unimpressed customers. Marcus makes Evan a completely relatable character - a fairly normal person who has stepped out and realised his dream, but then struggles to keep that dream alive due to forces both external and internal. What I appreciated about this book is the way Marcus keeps that sliver of uncertainty running throughout - is the TV really affecting Evan or is it all in his head?

This is a quick read, and while I could easily have stayed on this journey for another 100 pages or so, the book feels right at this length - the story didn’t need to be expanded beyond what it is here. ‘Grey Noise’ comes with a rating of N for Nihilistic - Viewer Depression Advised. And while that is indeed the case, it is not just darkness for darkness’s sake - moreover it has a positive message underpinning the bleakness - to face one's fears and in doing so, try and make the world a better place in whatever small way you can. In his afterword, Marcus describes the book as therapeutic nihilism, and I would say that goes for both the author himself, who is openly detailing his own grapplings with his place in the world, and for the reader too, who (I) can relate only too well to the issues explored here. Plus it is set in a video store with lots of references to your favourite ‘80s films!

Put some Grey Noise in your TBR, it is a bleak but ultimately hopeful read, which is what we could use right about now - hope in the face of an increasingly bleak world.

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