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Nearly People

Conrad Williams

PS Publishing

UK Hardcover First

ISBN 1-902880-19-6

Publication Date: 03-2001

78 Pages; £25.00/$40.00

Date Reviewed: 05-24-02

Reviewed by Rick Kleffel © 2002



Science Fiction, Horror


Conrad Williams first novel, 'Head Injuries' was a fantastic novel of the surreal and the supernatural. Pushed to the limits, his characters went beyond in prose that was wonderfully fluid, pulling the reader into the unreal. It was without doubt, however, a novel of the supernatural. In 'Nearly People', Williams uses the same wonderful prose style to create an intense science fictional scenario, pushing his characters beyond a future that seems almost as if it could be the present. This is a superb, disturbing performance that has the touch of horror with a convincingly realized near-future scenario. He does for fiction what David Cronenburg does for film.

Howling Mile is a city cut off from the rest of the world, a toxic waste and disease zone where the hunt for food has overwhelmed any other prerogative. The citizens are hounded, hunted, diseased, brought to cannibalism and worse. Carrier is a woman who by day looks for food for her slowly dying companion, Jake. By night she corresponds with the mysterious Enderby via email. In her hunt for food, she glimpses a mysterious figure, a suggestion of hope -- the Dancer. Is escape from the city possible? Is there something beyond the city? Is there something beyond hope?

Williams immerses the reader in world of bizarre imagery and language. They are so perfectly matched to something outside the reader's ken that it's as if you're getting transmissions from a foreign radio program. The reader knows that the speaker is referring to a concrete reality that is created by the words, but enticingly just beyond the reader's reach. Place names, creature names, human names, descriptions -- they all contribute to creating a very realistic surreal milieu. Every bit of dirt, the taste of the gritty liquids, the feel of the viscous meat as it slides down the throat -- the reader is there, whether or not they want to be. The prose is powerful, poetic.

But don't be put off by the poetry, because Williams also knows how to write a pulse-pounding tale of terror. The tension in 'Nearly People' is nearly unbearable. Williams plotting is very clever and very twisty. Most readers would be happy just to immerse themselves in Williams' world, but there's quite a bit more to this novella than a simple seek and find. If Philip K. Dick on drugs could take more, better drugs, the resulting mindset might be able to come up with the wrap-around plot that Williams offers reader in 'Nearly People'. This movie will play in your mind long after you've finished reading the novella. If you think you can handle the taste of long pork, then you should make sure that you order up 'Nearly People'.