Review: Thomas World by Richard Cox

Monday, April 9, 2012
Author: Richard Cox
Genre: Science fiction
Series: N/A
Pages: 396 (ARC edition)
Published: August 2011
Source: ARC for review which in no way affected the views expressed
Rating: 3.5/5

Thomas Phillips knows he''s losing his mind. He''s been losing it for as long as he can remember. And yet, when a strange old man asks him to consider that he, out of everyone in the world, knows the real truth, Thomas'' life begins to spiral out of control. He loses interest in his job and is fired. He refuses his wife''s suggestion of psychiatric care, and she leaves him. In the end, Thomas is alone. Except he's not, because someone seems to be following him. What if you were Thomas? Where would you go? What would you do? What if you realized every person in your life had been scripted to be there? What if you were haunted by the idea that you'd lived all these encounters before, hundreds or even thousands of times before? And what if the person watching all this time was you? Thomas World explores what happens when the borders of reality start seeming a bit pores... when things start bleeding through the edges, challenging ones perceptions of the universe. The grand tradition of Dickian, New Wave SF is explored by Richard Cox in this 21st century thriller.

Have you ever found yourself wondering if your life was planned? Ever expect to open up a book by some strange author you've never heard of and see your life embedded there in the pages? Or, maybe you've even read of characters that it seems you've met on the streets, and as you follow them through their fictional world, you can almost feel every hurt or joy they experience. You wonder if they're out there, somehow, living this life you are reading. This work of Richard Cox may speak strongly to you, then. Here in Thomas World, he has a created a voice that may whisper creepy things to you days after you have finished this book.

Thomas Phillips is slowly going insane. Unable to trust his own perceptions, he loses everything--his job, his wife, his work--and finds himself less and less sure of anything. But the truth is buried under layers of instability and imbalance, and Thomas has to dig dangerously deep to find the path to understanding. Drawing partially on the literature of Philip K. Dick, author Richard Cox manages to create a creepy, original story that is not a cheap Dick regurgitation. While he shamelessly points to Dick as inspiration (indeed, Dick is even a character), Cox uses the work of Dick as a springboard into a new, relevant adventure.
At first, Thomas World reads a bit like following a declining schizophrenic. As a reader, it's easy to find yourself thinking that the character of Thomas Phillips belongs in the mental institution, and that's that. Cox's portrayal of schizophrenia is scarily spot-on, even though Thomas' problems obviously go quite a bit deeper than that. About halfway through the novel, author Cox pulls out all the stops and twists the story in a way which Dick would definitely appreciate. There's paranoia and strangeness to spare, sure, but is Thomas Phillips truly insane? You'll find yourself reexamining your own perceptions of the world as he tries to figure out what is causing his own world to unravel.

For fans of Philip K. Dick and/or conspiracy theories, this book is sure to impress. For others, though, disbelief is difficult to suspend entirely. Not knowing the truth until the very end of the book, it can be difficult for the average reader to buy the premise. However, the ending does wrap it up neatly, and as it turns out, in a way that is not totally improbable.

Some interesting philosophical points are also brought up throughout the story, making Thomas World a nice little piece of brain candy for anybody interested in the nature of reality and perception... or a way to screw with their brains for an enjoyable evening of reading.

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