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Metronome by Tom Watson

21/04/2022
Metronome by Tom Watson

Tom Watson’s debut Metronome is a surreal survival story with a bit of a dystopian edge. Set on an island (or is it?) it is for the most part a claustrophobic and disturbing two hander that requires readers to buy into a real sense of wrongness before then upping the stakes.

Aina and Whitney have been exiled to an island for an unspecified crime which will become clear as the story unfolds. They have been there twelve years, tethered to their little croft by the need to take a pill from a dispensing machine every eight hours without fail or they will die. They have built a reasonable life, but after twelve years they are expecting to be collected by a Warden who has failed to communicate with them for the past three years. When the parole does not happen and instead an impossible sheep appears, Aina starts to suspect Whitney of lying to her about their situation. She finds a way of slowly gaming the pill machine to over time give her an extra and hence the capacity to go further from their croft. But the situation is soon going to become more complicated and her relationship to Whitney will be further tested.

Metronome requires a fairly large suspension of disbelief. The fact that only one of the two protagonists is even questioning their punishment after 12 years might alone leave readers scratching their heads. But Watson handles and sells the set up well and readers who buy into the premise will be quickly drawn into the world of Aina and Whitney and their ethical and moral issues. Much like Ben Smith’s 2019 debut Doggerland, this feels almost like it draws on sources like  Waiting for Godot as much as the dystopian traditions – two different characters stuck in a strange world, having to rely on each other but also with a thread of distrust. Much like that earlier book, the broader dystopian world from which Aina and Whitney come is only sketched very roughly and draws on common tropes of this type of fiction to make it work as remotely credible.

Watson delivers a claustrophobic scenario that delves into questions of loyalty, hope and the consequences of putting ones faith in an oppressive system that may (or may not) have itself broken down. Metronome is a strong debut that uses its premise to explore some of the more usual byways of dystopian fiction.

Metronome by Tom Watson

$29.99 AUD
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Metronome by Tom Watson

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