Book Review: Exit, a Paranormal Thriller by Thomas Davidson

The Bottom Line: Black Mirror fans will be drawn in by Thomas Davidson’s engrossing, hallucinatory tale of a screenwriter who stumbles into another dimension.

Meet Tim Crowe, a quirky screenwriter with a detached retina. After nearly losing his eye and fighting with his girlfriend, Tim takes his prescription eyedrops to the Gateway Theatre in Cambridge to see a movie called, appropriately, Gone (read in sequence, the theatre marquee reads “Gateway Gone”). The cashier gives him pause – she’s a sinister tarot card reader whose ticket booth reminds him of a coffin – but he goes in anyhow.

Tim watches the entire film and stays for the trailers (in this theatre, the previews for upcoming films play after the film, not before). Afterwards, the theatre’s EXIT sign glows, and seems to beckon him out.

As you might have guessed, Tim leaves the theatre and enters a different dimension, where he finds drones, dark angels and something called Jumper Cable TV.

Fortunately for Tim, his girlfriend doesn’t hold a grudge. By 2 a.m., she’s worried about him, and the plot thickens considerably when she goes out to search for him, ending up at – you guessed it – the Gateway Theatre. Will she find the same “exit” her boyfriend took? Will Tim find his way back? And even if he can, what is he to make of this strange new world he’s found?

The first thing you noticed about Exit is how funny and cinematic Davidson’s writing is. The genesis for the novel was the author’s winning entry in the San Francisco’s Litquake Booktrack Halloween Short Story Competition, but he distinguishes himself from most short form writers-turned novelists by wisely accelerating the plot early in the book. As a result, the pacing in the early chapters is just about perfect. But Davidson has more in common with the Black Mirror screenwriters than a novelist like Ray Bradbury. That’s because his story is actually about the way we live now, and perhaps, the way we may live soon if we’re not careful.

Check it out.

Bella Wright

Bella Wright blogs about books, film and media.

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