Worldbuilding can be a dull affair. An attempt to survey a place that isn’t there can often result in writing that isn’t readable. For M. John Harrison , a work of fiction relying on worldbuilding does not invite readers to the text with the idea that reading is a game in itself; it does not ask a reader to interpret, but to merely see or share a single world. This approach in speculative fiction produces text that functions as an operation manual and is patronizing to the reader. Like Harrison, I tend to see a heavy-handed stress on worldbuilding as a red flag. Writers—even notable ones—all too often fall prey to writing pages of exposition that can end up having no bearing upon the story or character.
Oliver Langmead takes a risky route in his sophomore novel Metronome (Unsung Stories, 2017). His protagonist, William Manderlay is an aging musician living in a retirement home, suffering from arthritis. He can no longer play his instrument, and his age prevents him from sailing the seas as he had done in his youth. Manderlay is now being haunted by nightmares, which to his friends are signs of decay and senility. Manderlay’s dreams are not his alone. They are somewhat ‘shared,’ meaning that within these dreams, there are doors that connect dreamers, leading to a communitarian process that has over time resulted in a civilization centred around the city of Babel. This civilization is inhabited by dreamers, their figments, nightmares and Sleepwalkers. The last of this lot are responsible for hunting nightmares and keeping safe the Dreamworld. Metronome’s plot starts when one of these Sleepwalkers goes rogue, leading to a chase, where Manderlay’s music works as a map to a place where something ancient and sinister resides. Read Landscape Of Dreams: Metronome by Oliver Langmead