By Martin MacInnes
Atlantic Books – £12.99
He’d be horrified when he identified the travel party. The T-shirts and baseball caps, the loud voices and English words. Immediately, he thought, the pedlars would appear with their Amerindian crafts and wares, and the previously sleepy community would light up, touting for business. But things had actually worked in his favour. It was proving disarmingly simple. Of course he could go upriver. Of course he could meet remote communities. He was welcome to join them, so long as he paid. He told Knut, the group’s tall, red-faced, blond leader, about what he read in the book at the hotel, the anthropologist and the tribe. Knut hadn’t heard any of this; it must have been a long time ago. These aren’t the people we’re meeting, he said. This isn’t the tribe.
‘How do you know?’ the inspector asked.
‘Because these people are original. They have not met us before, any of us. They have not met anyone from outside. This will be a real experience, a genuine first contact.’
‘He did not like it that the guides carried guns.
‘A precaution,’ Knut said.
Like most books of this persuasion, Infinite Ground is a relatively straight ahead, no nonsense read of succinct delivery.
Divided into two parts, Martin MacInnes herein conveys a novel that is part suave, part sinister yet altogether embroiled with a writing that never ceases to entertain. From the very first opening quote of the book: ”Why should I be disgusted by the mass that came out of the cockroach?,” one invariably knows that these 258 pages are going to make for something of a testy, turbulent read.
That said quality, is what both alerts and attracts the reader to what can only be described as a gripping debut, should come as no surprise. For in the words of Jeff Vandermeer, this book is: ”a totally original, surreal mystery shot through with hints of the best of Cesar Aira, Vladimir Nabokov, Angela Carter and Julio Cortazar. I doubt you’ve read anything quite like it.”
I’m not sure I’d place it alongside Nabokov, but it certainly makes a fraught and rather frenetic read – that’s for sure; and only time will tell whether or not such qualities will appeal to an srray of readers.