Re: Keyhole Factory

by Dirk Stratton, a.k.a. Dr. Constraint, May 26, 2013

Foreword: Just to provide some perspective: I never write online reviews. This will my first and, quite likely, my last. I'm making an exception in this case, because "Keyhole Factory" is an exceptional book. Having established that, let's begin. First, the short version:

—Two Haiku (with Title) Review—

if language is a
virus, what is language a
-bout a virus? a

"Keyhole Factory"

(apocryphal: a
pocketful o' apoca
-lypse ellipses: a . . .

Now, the longer version: Beginning an online review with a foreword followed by a version of the review in verse is a signal (a clumsy one, perhaps) that "Keyhole Factory" is an unconventional novel; in fact, it is an unabashed member of that species identified as postmodern. I've read some reviews of "Keyhole Factory" elsewhere online that dismiss the book because of its postmodern approach, and decry its use of—what are denigrated as—textual tricks and gimmicks. But let's get real: ALL novels depend on tricks and gimmicks. Is there any trick larger (or more common) than the third person omniscient narrator, who supposedly has the god-like powers to perceive and then perfectly record the thoughts, actions, and words of any number of human beings (and sometimes animals), creatures who furthermore, as the result of another trick, are not even real, but completely made up? Or how about the first person narrator (FPN) gimmick that often depends on the idea that some people have perfect recall, the uncanny ability to accurately reproduce every conversation they have? And that's when the FPN deigns to write things down: sometimes the FPN's . . . thoughts? speech? . . . appear in a book without any evidence of how that was accomplished, how we the audience have become privy to the FPN's words.


As it turns out, there are some very good reasons why Gillespie has chosen the variety of tricks he has to tell his story. "Keyhole Factory" suggests that when the world ends, the conventional ways of telling stories also end, or, at the very least, they become increasingly inadequate for the task of recording a frighteningly new and chaotic situation. "Keyhole Factory," then, is a compendium of different points of view of the end of life as we know it, each presented using a different narrative technique (or seen through a different keyhole, if you will). What all these points of view record are by turns horrifying, poignant, hilarious, ugly, beautiful, mysterious, poetic, and overall, human, all-too human. Gillespie is able to achieve all this because he is an incredibly talented writer, adept at a wide range of styles, making this novel an exhilarating roller coaster of a read which I recommend without reservation.


When a friend of mine recently sent me a list of outstanding apocalyptic novels, I thanked him, but also told him I would add "Keyhole Factory" to the list because I judged it to be the best one I'd ever read about an imagined apocalypse. I see no reason to revise that opinion. See if you agree with me: read it.

>>>Keyhole Factory