This review is for The Squirrel that Dreamt of Madness by Craig Stone. This book was brought to my attention by Craig himself via twitter where he can be found at @robolollycop. The book can be found on Amazon here and my review on Amazon can be found here.
On with the review…
From the first page this book had me. I picked it up on Amazon while it was free but I was prepared to pay money for it as I didn’t know it was free when I digitally walked into the store with my digital hand full of digital cash, having already decided I was going to buy it.
The book is unique, funny, original, quirky, raw and moving. It raises eyebrows. It leaves the reader asking questions, some of which are rhetorical, others are thankfully tidied up very nicely at the conclusion.
Craig Stone has a knack of picking the most appropriate character names, even if they are rather unconventional. The main character and narrator is Colossus Sosloss, who decides to live as a homeless man in Gladstone Park, London. Colossus tells us of his problems of living a homeless life, such as where to sleep, how to wash, where to store his bags of belongings, trivial things like that.
But Colossus is not alone. He tells of his experiences sleeping underneath Roald Dahl only to wake with a disabled fat man he calls Moonface, above him. We meet a midget park keeper who holds a grudge, we follow Colossus’ battles to understand the etiquette of dealing with mysterious fellow homeless men he calls Squirrel, Inbin & Hedges, and Worzel Bummidge. Interestingly, we meet an African Grey Parrot called Madness and its owners before the narrator meets them.
But when animals in the park start showing up brutally killed, Colossus is accused of being the culprit and having nowhere to turn, things start going down hill fast…
Overall I enjoyed the book despite a few niggling technicalities. Craig Stone likes to colour his narrative with many similes which, although entertaining, at times were like driving off the main road onto a rough and narrow dirt track surrounded by thick green vegetation with spiky thorns encroaching on both sides, quickly overwhelming the track, scratching the paintwork and hindering progress until we eventually reach the end where a sign reads, “you can go back to the main road now”.
An interesting editing challenge for a first person narrative, is deciding when to introduce characters the narrator has not yet met such that the reader is not suddenly surprised by their appearance towards the end of the story. This occurred with the parrot and his owners and with the description of the history of Squirrel. The justification is explained in the epilogue however it felt a little weak to me. However, I’m not sure I can suggest a better alternative.
It was certainly a different concept, very original and quite well executed. I’ll definitely read the prequel now. Life Knocks. Check it out.