By: B.L. Clark

I implore you to take a few minutes and read the local newspaper headlines or view the top news stories on the evening news.  What do you notice?  Chances are you will see stories of death, mayhem and discord.  That is not a dramatic or overly exaggerated statement.  It is true.  The “good news’ stories typically appear on the back pages or at the ending of a news broadcast.  They don’t tend to sell newspapers and there are just not as many good news stories out there!  Undoubtedly, human civilization as a whole is leagues away from creating any type of Utopian society.  However, is it actually possible?  In his novel The Man in the Hall, author B.L. Clark presents a brilliant and poignant exploration of this very question.  For lovers of thrilling science fiction with a strong dash of dialectical philosophy, this is the novel for you!

Essentially, the novel revolves around a hidden facility where a number of individuals cohabit with a state of art piece of technology known as the “machine.”  There is little doubt that this omnipotent machine is clearly in charge.  It deliberately uses the people in the facility to carry out its will…pure world Utopia!  However, as wonderful as this cause may seem, in the facility its pursuit comes at the cost of devious manipulation, terror and emotional detachment.  There is really no place for “feelings’ or emotions in such a realm as this.  Just such a point becomes glaringly obvious as the reader follows Mercury, a newly created man who is cloned from another worker in the facility.  As he travels the area on an “introduction tour”, he hears mind boggling tales from the other workers about the past and present life in the facility.  All of this is cleverly juxtaposed with a man who finds himself in a bizarre room with no way out.  What could the role of this man actually be?  Better yet…what is the actual purpose of human existence, and what happens when a discombobulated society totally loses sight of this?

To be clear, this novel is unlike anything else I have previously read.  It is very philosophical in nature, but supports that with a gripping and exciting plot.  There are also a variety of underlying themes which can be pinpointed.  For instance, the contrast between a Utopian society and the corrupt one which currently exists is prevalent.  Nevertheless, for me the overriding theme is clearly “what is the purpose of life?”  Why are we here… and what happens when we lose our way?  All of this is explored in an entirely engaging and thrilling story.  The author’s use of such literary devices as imagery is brilliant and adds what can only be referred to as an intelligent horror component to the book.  Make no mistake- this is not a mere philosophical exploration about what is the purpose of life.  No, it is an enthralling tale which grabs the reader and simply does not let them go!

When examining the characters in the novel, the author once again breaks the traditional mold.  There really is no “one” strong main character or protagonist.  There are actually a variety of characters who all have their defined roles.  Each are developed nicely and in depth through the “matter of fact” type of dialogue which exists.  This discourse totally matches the overall flavor of the novel.  While the dialogue may frequently appear as lacking in spirit and emotion…that is actually the point.  The author cleverly connects the dialogue and characterization with the overall theme of the story.  Don’t be fooled however, the emotions are simmering in a fire below the surface.  The entire facility and everyone in it constantly seem ready to implode from within.

I would strongly recommend this novel for adult readers.  The writing has a beautiful flow to it and the ideas are intelligently connected throughout the story.  It is not light reading or the type of story where you can only be half engaged however.  Be prepared to put on your thinking cap and get sucked into the captivating vortex this novel creates!

5 out of 5 Esoteric Stars for this one!  *****