When was the last time you picked up a book and couldn’t put it down until it was finished? For me, it was first thing this morning when I picked up Changing Light to read a few chapters before breakfast. A couple of hours later, breakfast had been spectacularly forgotten, and I had just finished one of the most enjoyable reads I have had for some time.
The story of Changing Light is portrayed through James Irvine’s main character, Stephen Whyte, a misfit living in Kirknane (‘no church’ in Scots), a strong community where the importance of ‘fitting in’ cannot be over-emphasised. As the story unfolds, we see Stephen struggling with his difference, his individuality, and his unwillingness to conform, until fate leads him to find a solution to the social malaise inherent in Kirknane. However, scarcely has he made this discovery than Stephen finds himself facing an even bigger challenge: how to let others know without giving himself away as intrinsically different to a community which already suspects him of non-conformity…
But is Stephen Whyte really the only ‘normal’, sensitive individual able to stand out against this bland malaise which is dulling senses and quashing individuality, or is the society around the main protagonist ‘normal’, with the social problems mostly in his own mind? Just a thought.
Stylistically and linguistically Changing Light reads very well, putting one in mind of classic literature. Indeed, subtle suggestions of 1984 and The Trial came to mind as the narrative progressed.
In a similar vein to many of the classics, the notions Irvine expresses in Changing Light can be seen as a critique of contemporary society, where people choose to spend more time safely indoors than outside; where language is being dulled down into short, quick snippets requiring no thought; where attention spans are growing shorter; and where complicated vocabulary and punctuation have become unpopular and redundant.
Changing Light can therefore help the reader to take a step back from everyday reality by making you think. It also made me want to take a long walk into the hills this afternoon.
But enough praise; before this review is over there is one (relatively serious) criticism to make of Changing Light. It simply ends too quickly!