A boy wakes up in a pipe, in the middle of a silent forest, with no memories of where he came from before. Rescued by a mysterious, nameless stranger, he finds himself walking down a rusted railway through an eerie, dangerous land, filled with abandoned factories, pipes and strange creatures. So begins The Factory World, the first novel by award winning New Zealand writer Joseph Edward Ryan. Bizarre, dark and twisted, don’t expect any hand-holding here. We are thrown into the factory world with no explanations, and, much like the characters, are expected to find our own way through the maze.
In the beginning I kept tripping up on the grammar, the constant broken sentences, where a sentence ends. For no reason. And begins again with an “and”. Or a “then” But it’s now a new paragraph. Where the dialogue is stilted. And commas are sparse. This odd structure quickly becomes jarring, and, combined with the strange pace, makes it hard to really sink into the story for the first few chapters. However, as the characters move further through their strange, desolate world, this writing style begins to make sense, and feel more natural – a little like the ampersands in China Mieville’s Railsea, only with less obvious gimmickry and intent. By the time the writing has hooked you in, the premise is so intriguing that it’s impossible to stop reading – it just may take a little time and patience to get there.
At its best points, this book is a profoundly strange, sinister trip where the answers are hidden beneath layers of possible meaning and non-meanings, and I found this to be rather refreshing after a number of over-detailed, over-explained stories. Even the ending doesn’t explain so much as suggest, leaving possibilities open to the imagination. If you are a fan of clean-cut storylines that wrap up neatly by the end, then The Factory World isn’t for you. If, however, you’re in the mood for something wholly unique and thought provoking, then I definitely recommend this book.