Thy Fearful Symmetry Reviewed By Lavanya Karthik of
Lavanya Karthik

Reviewer Lavanya Karthik: Lavanya is from Mumbai, India and is a licensed architect and consultant in environmental management. She lives in Mumbai with her husband and six-year old daughter. She loves reading and enjoys a diverse range of authors across genres.

By Lavanya Karthik
Published on October 4, 2012

Author: Richard Wright

ASIN: B008ZBRQ8U (Kindle edition)

Author: Richard Wright

ASIN: B008ZBRQ8U (Kindle edition)

Love –or rather, forbidden love -  triggers  the End of Days in Richard Wright’s Thy Fearful Symmetry, when angel Pandora and demon Ambrose fall in love, then flee their respective masters to seek refuge on earth. This is ‘Romeo and Juliet: The Apocalyptic Version’, and a particularly gritty and blood drenched one at that , with the earth paying the price for one man’s unwitting transgression against laws older than Time.  That man is Callum Baskille , a Glaswegian priest, who absolves a burning Ambrose from sin and then offers the runaway lovebirds sanctuary in his church.

Unfair, you say? Or unreal, perhaps – love being that miracle that makes the world go round? Round the bend, in this case, as Wright gives us a no-holds barred account of a city struggling, and failing, to understand the torment it must endure for no real fault of its own. Wright’s prose is  unflinchingly graphic, at once disturbing and riveting in its description of a world under siege-the river runs red with blood, mild mannered schoolmasters turn killer, the skies rain fire. And that’s only the thin end of a wedge that widens into horrors as diverse as an army of self propagating zombies  and baby-faced sprites from Hell . This is certainly not a book for the faint-hearted.

Through all this mayhem, a small group of characters struggle with personal ordeals . Malachi hunts for Pandora, blaming her for the mutilation of his wife; nurse Melissa joins Malachi for reasons all her own;  schoolmaster Clive goes over to the dark side, and mows down everyone he encounters in his pursuit of Ambrose;  Ambrose himself desperately tries to undo the damage he has  wrought and  find a way to escape with Pandora. All the while, tough-talking Inspector Gemmell and his deputy attempt to  keep the peace and their sanity, and find a rational explanation for the city’s predicament.  . 

Wright’s vision of God is definitely unconventional and  far removed from the compassionate, paternal guardian most people of faith would like to believe in. God, in the world according to Wright, is short tempered, willful, unforgiving, and capable of abandoning his flock without a second thought.  And his angels , beautiful as they are, come armed with swords and obligingly  kickstart the weeding process we know of as Judgement Day within the hallowed precincts of a church.

Something of the confusion gripping Glasgow finds its way to the reader as well, and the frenetic pace of the book may seem daunting at first. Characters –human and supernatural - hurtle at you from every direction, each with their own intriguing backstory, and often unaware of the bigger picture around them.  Seemingly inexplicable events occur; the odds seem unfairly loaded against the innocent, and the nicest characters seem destined to meet the nastiest of ends.  The narrative shifts focus first to one character, then the next, leaving you wondering who its lead players really are. All the while, the world’s chances of surviving this night of horror seem less and less likely.

But stick with it for things fall into place soon enough.  Thy Fearful Symmetry rewards you for your patience with a seamless narrative, energetic writing, an inventive and complex storyline and a stunning climax with one final audacious surprise . My one quibble – the character of Pandora, who remains a nebulous presence for much of the book and, when she does appear, fails to prove really worthy of all the trouble she’s kicked up.

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