Monday, July 20, 2015

Page 69: The Screaming

The Page 69 Test is not mine. It has been around since 2007, asking authors to compare page 69 against the meat of the actual story it is a part of. I loved the whole idea of it and so I'm stealing it specifically to showcase small press titles - novels, novellas, short story collections, the works! So until the founder of The Page 69 Test calls a cease and desist, let's do this thing....

In this installment of Page 69, 
we put David Ellis's The Screaming to the test.

OK, David, set up page 69 for us. 

This page is about a guy called Dai Williams. He’s got a knack of getting inside peoples’ heads and he’s trying to work out what made a girl called Tania do something really horrific.He’s got a rather laconic sense of humour, too.

What is The Screaming about:  

It’s a transatlantic eco thriller, set in the US and the UK, that opens with mysterious homicides, apparently committed by innocent teenagers, moves on to the spookily weird and wonderful, and ends with with some paranormal twists. There’s a cast of thousands, including walk-on parts for corgis and maroon helicopters.

Do you think this page gives our readers an accurate sense of what The Screaming is about? Does it align itself the book’s theme? 

The page throws the reader in the deep end, but introduces the reader to a pivotal character in the book. He’s a Welshman who hates leeks and just about everything that’s Welsh. But he has a rather cool talent.

PAGE 69 

The paramedic shrugged and continued with his futile attempts to drip some fluids into her shocked and rapidly expiring body.

This time, Dai allowed the hocus focus to cast around more generally in her brain for clues as to what had happened that morning. With a near dead brain, it was like retrieving data from a hard drive that already had its contents deleted. There were ways of doing it, but it was a matter of knowing where to look. The problem with organic memory was that the harder he looked, the faster the images and thoughts seemed to disappear. It was as if the neurons were playing hide and seek with the hocus focus. Perhaps they’d name the phenomenon the ‘Dai Williams Uncertainty Principle’ at some distant point in the future. But he was jumping ahead of himself. He had a job to do.

The thing about human brains is that memories take many forms. It could be a snippet of music, a bit of conversation, a lingering smell, or the thoughts that drift through the brain like wispy cirrus clouds. The brain was better at visual storage, and some neuroscientists believed the last image perceived by the dying brain reverberated around like a clap in a cathedral. Dai preferred the notion of a fart in a cathedral, with the smell lingering long after the sound had died away. By pinging the remnant, he might be able to get a momentary reconstruction of the original memory. He’d tried this out on a pigeon that had crashed head first into the window of his apartment, but the thick plate glass had done too good a job of smashing the one gram brain to smithereens.

So, in for a dime, in for a dollar, Dai tried his best to establish a link with the one hundred billion neurons inside Tania’s head that were at various stages of self-destruction. First stop was the right visual cortex, which looked relatively intact. He pinged gently. Shit. That was creepy. He certainly hadn’t expected to see his own face in all its weirdness, incriminatingly recorded by her brain. But it made sense, as she’d uttered her last words just after she stared at him. Dai switched to the right auditory cortex. He pinged as gently as he could. “I can see the


The author lives in an ostensibly carbon zero house in Kent, UK, with his partner and two cats amidst fields of maize and poly-tunnels of strawberries. At the bottom of his garden, in a nearby field, there’s a 3G network mast cunningly disguised as a tree. When he isn’t occupied enjoying the simplicity of rural life, his mind is drawn to strange imaginings about what lurks beneath the surface of the world around him. 

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