Rupert Thomson has a solid reputation as a cult writer: his earlier books have garnered increasing acclaim without ever really propelling him into the authorial big time. Still, his 1998 novel, Soft!, marked a definite upswing in terms of recognition. And it would be a shame if The Book of Revelation, his sixth and latest, didn't continue this trend, given its level of psychological and aesthetic daring.
The narrator of Thomson's book is a dancer living in Amsterdam. One day he goes out to buy some cigarettes for his girlfriend--also a dancer--and is kidnapped and held for a period of time before being released. It would be unfair to give away too much more. But suffice it to say that each development adds an additional coordinate to what we might call the novel's emotional geography. Indeed, the Dutch metropolis seems to be a full participant in this intricate fiction:
There was a sense in which the city had been trying to tell me something all along. You'll never solve this case. You might as well forget it. But I had not been listening, of course. Look at the map. It's all there, in a way. The whole story.
At a time when so many writers are obsessed with trauma--particularly child abuse and its psychological fallout--Thomson chooses to explore the concept through an event that is both more and less sensational. The narrator's ordeal evokes the sort of highly ritualized bastinado that we encounter in, say, Story of O. Yet the author distances us from these events by switching from the first to the third person, a simple device that complicates and deepens the effect of the book as a whole.