Review: Infinite Ground – Martin MacInnes

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Infinite Ground – Martin MacInnes
Release Date: 04/08/2016 (UK)
Publisher: Atlantic Books
Pages: 272pp RRP: £12.99 (Hardback)
Kindle edition available here (£6.02)

When Carlos goes missing halfway through a family meal in the midst of a sweltering South American summer, a semi-retired inspector is called in for what should be a routine missing persons case. What unfolds is a strange, sinister journey which poses questions about identity and the nature of reality itself.

MacInnes’s debut is one that seeks to constantly unsettle the reader. Whether it’s in the infrequent descriptions of the life of an aggressive parasite species (as detailed in the extracts from Tribes of the Southern Interior that open chapters), or the obsessive focus that the inspector engages in. Amongst the key stages of his investigation, his recreation of Carlos’s office reaches a point where it begins to resemble an extreme form of method acting. When a later chapter listing a variety of potential reasons behind the disappearance of Carlos even poses the possibility that ‘Carlos isn’t here. Carlos isn’t gone. This isn’t everything. This is a brief light’, it reminds that the journey we find ourselves on may be an internal one, rather than a physical one – where the imagination is just as real as the experience. Either way, the reader should be careful when considering their footing.

It would be easy for some to see Infinite Ground as a ‘postmodern’ novel. Personally, I can’t really say that it felt that way to me – the language that MacInnes uses doesn’t really fit that description. At times he can be a bit archaic with his word choices (such as ‘purport’, or describing glasses as ‘optical lenses’), and that can clash a little with his description of the surroundings. That said, through that odd choice of words he manages to cultivate an atmosphere that’s something both familiar and yet subtly unnerving – a rare feat.
There’s an undercurrent to his narrative that invites comparisons to the works of Philip K Dick. With his descriptions of the environment and its enigmatic relationship with the characters, I found myself reminded of Area X in Jeff Vandermeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy (If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend that you do) – Atlantic Books’s choice of his quote on the jacket was clearly a fitting one.

It’s safe to say that Infinite Ground is a strange novel. MacInnes’s debut is one of ideas, which whilst not necessarily revelatory, are still examined effectively. The manner in which identity can be peeled away is explored to an impressive depth here – something which you wouldn’t necessarily expect from an author’s first efforts. Atlantic Books has found a fascinating new talent in MacInnes, and I’ll be keeping an eye on his future works from hereon.

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