The Meifod Claw
Author: JW Bowe
Released: 8 July 2017
Publisher: Serious Biscuits
I figured out the other day that in the course of my ten years in journalism I’d been paid to write almost a million words. More than the complete works of Shakespeare.
But never a book. Never the Holy Grail. My answer to who my hero is will always remain “anyone who has written a book”. So in that sense the Meifod Claw, the debut novel by JW Bowe, is a triumph before I’ve even turned a page. Thankfully it remains a triumph beyond that.
Rare are the writers that grip you with such sparkling metaphor, and vivacious use of language, twice within its opening page:
‘He waited for the morning to find pathways through his body.’
‘..he had found himself within a snow dome that waited for life to be shaken upon it.’
Bowe remains at his best, throughout the work, in describing the beauty of such everyday feeling, of setting a scene, of putting pen to a landscape. A love of language pervades all.
He trust his characters to be liked on their own merits, without the need for lengthy explanations of self. A faith which is justified as you turn page after page eagerly awaiting the next exploit. Huge swathes of this book can easily be consumed in one sitting. Not until around page 265, deep deep into the tome, do you get the beginnings of explanation as to the motives, and background, to several key characters. That is a brave decision, to withhold, but it justifies your faith in those people once you get there. In fact, that very chapter, number 11 of part two, sparkles with some of the most glorious writing in the whole piece. I cared before then, but beyond that I felt.
The book centres on sci-fi but operates an open door policy where all are welcome, regardless of their beliefs and interests. You don’t have to understand anti-gravity for it to work here etc etc.
Dialogue zips by every bit as crisply as the drama, here there and everywhere and a rate of knots. It appears to be intentional. In fact, the book often reads as a trip, both literal and metaphorical, both drug-induced and not.
At times it may come across almost a paean to mind-altering substances: caffeine, alcohol, cannabis and beyond. But also it deals with the mind-altering feelings of love, a new romance, friendship and family. Of being high in a dramatic sense, among the clouds across the world, but also basically high on life, however that is achieved.
In these altered-states of awareness in which you read the book, narrative flits in and out of comprehension. Leaps of faith are required for you to carry on along with the journey at hand. It’s a rewarding ride, though so much is going on, in so many directions, you occasionally grasp for a good old sit down and cup of tea. Thankfully its characters do too.
Billed as a comedy, it is undoubtedly replete with its funny moments. A lover of an inventive and amusing turn of phrase can gorge themselves here.
I’m fascinated to see where Bowe goes next. More about the life of a key character is promised in the follow up novel. I’m in. Let me know when I can buckle up for another ride.
There’s a line in the middle of the book that goes “I haven’t got time for madness,” but thankfully, in his own way, Bowe has.
* The Meifod Claw is available now