Manifest Recall by Alan Baxter
Having devoured Mr. Baxter’s “The Gulp”- a collection of short stories based around a fictional village of the same name - I ordered Manifest recall and three other books by Alan, on the recommendations I received from Mother Horror. Manifest Recall is the first of those, and I’d saved it for a weekend I knew was coming where I could just read to my heart's content. So, I was already in a good mood when I started it.
It might well have been the fact that I was in the backseat of a moving car, traveling at 130 km/per hour on my way to visit my in-laws, but I developed tunnel vision, was oblivious to anything and everyone outside of the book, and upon arriving at my destination 2 and a half hours later, with just the Author page left to read, I was basically in a daze. And a happy, thriller-filled one at that.
Manifest Recall takes some cool writing tropes, such as an unreliable narrator, non-sequential storytelling, and paranormal elements, and blends them into not only a coherent whole but also a break-necked pace one. Baxter’s at the top of his game here, I loved the deep pov, we are as confused as the character when days pass by unnoticed, we are as clueless as he, piecing together the puzzle that is his past. There are touches here of the film Memento, story-wise, and all of the action scenes are well done, the only comparison I can think of, offhand, would be some of Lee Child’s work. There are detail nerd’s (like me) moments, the information about rear lights on cars, that make this seem natural, believable, more real than the reality we are escaping from, that are the cherry on the cake. The female lead role, Carly, is well delivered, the nuance given to her, is, I believe, observational profiling, her past well presented. Even side characters like the MC’s wife (no spoilers here) are fleshed out and bustle with their own individual personalities when given their moment in the spotlight. I loved her lines to Vernon, Baxter can write strong female characters, and the meeting of the two felt real. Perhaps the incident with the son was a step too far – not from a sympathy point, but rather, I think we were already on board with the MC’s motivations by that point – but it firmed up the reaction and subsequent chain of events and made the brutality that was to come later, seem something to which we were invested. I say we, I can’t think that anyone would not have been invested by that point.
There are elements here that were left very, very unexplained. I won’t go into spoilers, but there are lines here which I even noted as I came across them, that changed a phenomenon in the book into an actual event – something I had believed a psychosis, into an actual, undeniable manifestation. The explanation of which I will be hounding Mr. Baxter for, in the sequel (s?) to the novel. But my enjoyment of the book made me more than happy to wait – make no mistake, this is just pure intellectual entertainment, an brilliantly presented, roller-coaster ride of a novel. Boy, can Mr. Baxter write, and the flow here is unstoppable. I’m already considering the sequel, “Recall night”, for my ride back home, it would give synchronicity to the entire, wonderful, fully invested tunnel vision experience that is the magnificent Manifest Recall and my weekend away from it all at my in-laws.
Alan, you continue to impress me.
5 out of 5⭐