The first thing I have to say is: It’s not what it says on the tin. It titles itself a novel. More than that, an interactive novel. That was the expectation I had when I started reading. And the basis on which I embarked upon a review.
The House on the Strand by Daphne Du Maurier is one of my favourite books and Edward starts with a similar conceit – timeshifting and its implications on the individual psyche. It’s a device I’ve used in a fair amount of my own writing, so it’s not surprising I find it interesting.
However, with Edward, things change as the ‘story’ develops. The biggest and most significant thing to note is that Edward is NOT a novel. Inside the narrative there is an historical romance, which may indeed be a sort of novel. However, outside of this there are a number of things happening. And as a reader and reviewer, I have to make a judgement on the whole work. Which is not a novel.
In my opinion, for a book to call itself a novel, the author has to NOT believe their own story. It is a fiction. By definition. (I know there are such as B.S.Johnson who might disagree but I’m not sure Voyce is striking the same ground as Johnson either) For me, it’s okay if you have a narrator who is (or even may/may not be) the author who is telling the story. That again is a very familiar conceit. Conrad used it most effectively, and a great new ‘find’ of an author for me, Stuart Ayris uses it to great effect in his work. But this is not Edward either. It would have been a very interesting novel HAD the author used this construct but he didn’t. As I read through it, I kept wishing it WAS a novel. There are more than one novels in this ‘story’ struggling to get out and often competing with each other for a reader’s attention.
But, when it comes down to it, my conclusion is that Edward is in fact Mike Voyce’s attempt to justify his own experience and provide what he considers to be evidence for his belief in reincarnation. There are many interesting aspects to this. But it’s not a novel. It is more akin to what I consider to be narrative psychology. By which I mean the “storied nature of human conduct” (Sarbin), that is how human beings deal with experience by constructing stories and listening to the stories of others. This does interest me and I’ve used it in my own fictional work. But I know where the fiction starts and ends. But to use this as a structural or thematic device the author has to take responsibility for what they are creating. That’s the fundamental difference as I see it between a novel and narrative psychology.
Voyce seems to me to be in too many camps at once. And risks pleasing no one. I’m not convinced this is a deliberate act in experimental fiction. I think it’s an attempt to use (or miuse) both fiction and history to achieve an ‘end.’ And I’m not sure I’m entirely comfortable with that. Of the other ‘angles’ to this work, I confess that historical romance doesn’t interest me. More than that, I am not sceptical of, I simply don’t believe in reincarnation, and no amount of persuasion will convince me otherwise. So that part of Edward leaves me cold. But I’m sure there are many people who like historical romance and have a penchant for reincarnation who will love at least this part of the work.
Interactively Edward is a confusion as well. If you like medieval music and historical romance I think you may enjoy a large part of it. The historical links however seem largely to be from Wikipedia which doesn’t strike me as the best of places to find convincing historical ‘facts’ or even data. The interactivity lacks some depth and substance which tends to a feeling of reductiveness in the ‘argument’ for the veracity of Voyce’s experience. The linked video/radio clips seem to be more like propaganda for reincarnation than anything else. And propaganda isn’t ‘evidence’ any more than it is ‘fiction.’
In conclusion, I’m left wondering who will actually be able to engage fully with the ‘conversation’ Mike Voyce considers his work to be. I think it IS more of an interactive ‘conversation’ – and this is an exemplar of narrative psychology (whether that is a conscious aim of the writer or not). It seems to be standing in a number of camps, making a range of claims (I’m not just talking about the reincarnation claim) as to what it is, and in the process risking satisfying no one. But if you know all this and are interested in one or more of the many elements the work contains I think it’s worth some of your time. Certainly if you’re interested in narrative psychology you can explore it to glean more insight into how ‘story’ can be used consciously and subconsciously. . While there’s a lot that’s interesting – it’s not a novel, interactive or otherwise. Sorry Mike, I’m just not convinced. But having said that, I think I’m not the target market and so, in positive vein the best I can suggest is that if the concept or my review whets your interest – check it out.
Reviewed by Cally Phillips
Edward Interactive is available in Kindle format
Find out more about Mike Voyce
And anyone who can suggest where this should sit on the virtual bookshelf -I’ll receive your suggestions gratefully!