Reviews In The Machine : The Method, by Duncan Ralston
Right off the bat, one thing that attracted me to The Method was a narrative device that once was common in television but I haven’t seen as much anymore. The teaser is the first few minutes of the show, before the title sequence and the first commercial break. The idea is to quickly grab the interest of the viewer with a glimpse at what the episode is going to be about.
There was a time when the teaser would be used as follows. The episode starts off quickly with the hero or heroes in the worst situation imaginable. There is little or no setup before the camera cuts away in a great cliffhanger moment.
When the show comes back, the narrative has gone backwards, before the start of the teaser. The idea is that you now get to see what the hell point A was that led to point B.
This is exactly how The Method starts and its hooks were in me right away.
At the center of the story is Frank and Linda, a married couple who have come across hard times in their relationship. They are encouraged by a pair of friends to try a somewhat unconventional couples retreat, called, you guessed it, The Method. And as an aside here, I loved the connection I felt with Stephen King’s short story, Quitters, Inc. In that story, the protagonist is talked into trying a company who has unorthodox ways of getting smokers to quit. I don’t know if this was intentional but it immediately had me on guard as to what Frank and Linda were getting in to.
This book takes all of the great elements from the film, The Game while combining in it, Ralston’s unique style and voice. The book had me guessing throughout but as the onion layers peeled away it only got more complex, crazy and interesting.
I felt like Ralston was delving into new territory with this and I respect the effort. I would never have guessed that this and Woom were written by the same hand and I say that in a good way. It’s easy for writers to fall into a certain cadence and to tell stories that start to sound like one another. So far, Ralston seems to take a new step with each book and I have enjoyed the ride.
You don’t generally expect to see elements of relationships in books of this type but as the subject does kind of scream for it, I thought his handling of the fractured marriage was great. It’s one thing to show a couple for whom everything is beautiful and perfect. It takes courage to show a pair where things are clearly not going in a good direction and that you might be witnessing the end of a relationship instead of the start of one. Ralston shows a complexity and maturity to his writing that really explores the emotions and perspectives of these characters and gives them both fair treatment.
The pacing of this story is exquisite and I constantly felt like I was being propelled from one scene to the next. There is a fine line when a story crosses over from complex into incomprehensible. It’s very easy to pile twist on top of twist and lose control over things. Ralston manages to keep a lot of balls in the air and I think what draws me through the story is not just the mystery of the plot but of the inherent promise that an explanation will be forthcoming.
Ralston manages to make this story powerful without having to resort to superficial or cheap tricks. There is a lot of complexity going on in this book. Just when I thought I had it figured out, I was proven wrong. The characters are real and the emotional weight of their story gives the book a knockout punch.
Do yourself a favor. Check it out. Click here to be taken to your regional Amazon branch office and please consider supporting a great author!