Richard Wright

Sideway Press / 280 pages / (November 25, 2013)


No matter how rotten your life may be, at least it’s your life, right? There is always that last little shred of comfort to cling to. What if you woke up one day to find that you were not you. Not only that, the life you thought you were living is now occupied by a stranger — living in your house, taking your name, loving your wife. So, you have a sparkly new life, but none of it is familiar, or particularly comforting.

Cuckoo is a gut-wrenching, claustrophobic trap inside somebody else’s night terror. The panic clutches at the reader in the opening paragraph and only tightens its grip as the story progresses. The barrier between reality and machination is forever blurred as Richard (if that is his real name) fights to understand and to survive. The biggest obstacle he faces is just to find someone who believes him… someone who isn’t trying kill him.

Along the way, Richard will be amazed to see how much worse Hell can get. He will be destroyed when he learns who the real demons are. The way things are going, it doesn’t look like there are going to be any angels stepping in to save him.

Wright strikes at one of the primal fears of humanity by attacking the very nature of identity. What is it that makes us who we are? Is it the support and acceptance of the people around us that defines us? If no one believes we are who we think we are, just who the hell are we?

How could things possibly get so bad, so fast? A more important question might be: Who would be capable of perpetrating something this huge? Is it even humanly possible?

Possibilities and questions. That’s what Cuckoo boils down to. It is impossible to get through a white-knuckle reading of this chilling blend of science fiction and horror without building up a headful of questions. The irresistible urge to “figure things out” is going to meet up with the immovable wall of a complex, constantly surprising plot.

Wright’s vision would seem to abstract to control, but he is the master of this nightmare from start to finish. He maintains the sickening off-centre feel of the story without losing the quality of his prose. Readers will be flipping pages so fast someone could lose a finger — someone who is not a character in the story.

This, you will find yourself thinking when you come up for air, is a major talent. Here is an author you could lose some sleep over. If you haven’t latched onto any of his short fiction, Cuckoo is going to be the lure that puts you on the lookout for more of his stuff. Fortunately for us and the genre, there is plenty more where that came from.

You might want to take a breather — sit back and let your heart rate return to normal — before you tackle Wright again.