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by Douglas Thompson

274 pages

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In the city of Sylvow, brother and sister Claudia and Leo Vestra made a childhood promise to each other: he would look after the plants and she would look after the animals. 

Unlike most promises, both of these were kept – each in their own way.  Claudia is now a vet – looking after pampered pets or putting down strays and leading a mundane life in the city.  Leo, on the other hand, disenchanted with modern urban life, has abruptly abandoned his wife and disappeared into the surrounding forest, his only contact with the outside world being a sequence of dramatic and prophetic letters – increasingly convinced that a semi-sentient natural world is preparing to rebel against its human irritants. 

Nature is a strange thing – although we have done an amazing job of cataloguing and observing it, we still know very little about it.  Nature always surprises – and always changes, especially under an external influence such as humanity’s devastating effect on the environment.  This book follows its cast of characters through a spectacular clash between everyday life and life on the evolutionary scale – as society dissolves and is stripped away under the onslaught of surreal environmental disaster.  Douglas Thompson has dug deep into the inevitable guilt that we all feel, as a culture/species, for the disastrous state of civilization and its effect on both ourselves and the world around us – in the process touching on elements as diverse as literary surrealism, philosophical tract, horror, disaster novel and visionary science fiction.

With a foreword by Martin Bax and an Afterword by David Rix

…both intellectually rich and readily accessible to the average reader…This is an incredibly well written book… the slow unravelling of the central characters, and their mounting realisation of the horrors which the future may hold, make for compulsive reading…  

Charles Packer, Sci-Fi Online.


Thompson like his maybes, his doubts and ambiguities, the darkness of the forests of our minds. Come in and enjoy this wild walk in the woods, and step out again unscathed –maybe.  

Martin Bax, from the Introduction.


… with its visual allusions to Max Ernst, and literary echoes of J. G. Ballard, William Kotzwinkle’s Dr Rat, and Jonathan Carroll’s “Friend’s Best Man,” among others, “Sylvow” offers a mysterious and tantalising glimpse into what promises to be a rich and compelling fantasy…Thompson uses the tropes of the fantastic in unique and compelling ways while at the same time creating vivid and fully realized protagonists…  

Mike O’Driscoll, The Fix Online.


The environmental catastrophe genre gets an unforgettable overhaul in Douglas Thompson’s SYLVOW… a rich and bizarre literary mutation that deserves to perplex and delight the widest possible audience it can attain.

Adam Groves,


…a literary science fiction novel that explores the modern world’s relationship with nature. The book lives up to this weighty promise and at times exceeds it, defying genre constraints…  This novel is ambitious in scope… It is thoughtful, considered and raises philosophical questions about sanity and madness; the natural and constructed. The core plot—that of nature rising up against her human oppressor—is framed by magical realism, in the vein of Jonathan Carroll’s writing. The imagery is clear and vivid, written with striking detail…

Regina de Búrca, The Future Fire.


Sylvow has enough ideas, themes, images, plot lines and incidents for about half a dozen ordinary novels… The mixture is a rich one. What manages to keep this narrative on the rails -just -is that the small cast of characters is well-defined and sympathetic… I liked Sylvow. It is a thoughtful, powerful, at times genuinely poetic work.

Reggie Oliver, Wormwood magazine (No.16, Spring 2011) from Tartarus Press


Thompson writes with the assurance of someone completely in control of his material, bringing the story alive on the page, with images of the beautiful and bizarre – a pirate queen sailing her galleon through flooded streets, a dog man hybrid with stories of mutation and science run amok, a tree that rapes a young girl in a scene that brings to mind The Evil Dead, strange plant life infesting a house and absorbing any and all human interlopers, art forms left to rot and decay as part of the natural process and thus achieving a new form of beauty…

…Douglas Thompson has produced a powerful new work of apocalyptic fiction, one that should appeal to readers of all stripes, but primarily those of horror and science fiction. He offers a highly original, fascinating and far from entirely bleak account of the interesting times to come, one that is both literary and humane, illustrating the book’s subtext that as long as the sun shines the world will go on, life will endure.”

Peter Tennant, Black Static Magazine

…When read as a novel of disconnect, of humanity’s failed attempts to understand, or come to an accommodation with, Nature and her needs, Sylvow works very well indeed. Many of the passages set in the forest showcase some lovely writing …Sylvow is an intriguing blend of genres. With this novel, and his debut Ultrameta, Thompson has certainly shown he is a name to watch.

Ian Sales, Interzone Magazine

...It takes a bit of time to get into the story with the many characters and levels of narrative, but it is a thought-provoking book, especially with the central image of the maze-like forest and the roots that grow underneath the surface of our civilization.

Dorothee Lang, BluePrint review:

…very different from a conventional story. Like all of Thompson’s writing, this has a surreal, dreamlike quality, like a fairytale of the original Grimm sort, dark and mysterious and sometimes horrific. There is a haunting quality to his prose, but that doesn’t mean that it is entirely detached from reality as there are some penetrating observations about life and relationships scattered through it; for instance, Franco’s ruthless analysis of his own infidelity and the state of mind which led inexorably to disaster in his personal life.

This book won’t appeal to everyone. In fact, if I had only read this description it wouldn’t have appealed to me, since it isn’t the kind of book I normally read. However, the quality of the writing and the strangeness of the story compelled me to read it all the way through.

Anthony Williams, British Fantasy Society

…Thompson’s descriptions of the raw power of nature are outstanding.

David V Barrett, The Fortean Times

“The Forest Of Veils” is a hauntingly oneiric chapter from Sylvow, a forthcoming novel by Douglas Thompson sampled in two previous issues, where three ill-assorted city dwellers trek through an unidentified virgin forest in search of a deranged lost brother. The light they find at the heart of darkness (“Nobody rules the earth, Anton, the earth rules us”) is a good deal less portentous than Johnathan Lethem in “The Billboard Men”, a glibly morose vision of a gridlocked US dystopia, which proves that the best contributions are not necessarily from the best-known contributors…”

Gerry Mangan, Times Literary Supplement (of The Forest Of Veils from Sylvow, in Ambit Magazine):

Explicitly seeking to echo, in part, the work of the brothers Grimm—the book begins with a sinister excerpt from the story of the pied piper of Hamelin, leading the children away, having already eliminated the rats—Sylvow is interested, as well, in the legend of Romulus and Remus, and the fictional city at the center of the action is described as the farthest spot penetrated by the Roman Legion. Primal wildness is here, under the paving stones and suburban cement. Thus, Thompson’s work reads something like a moral tact, winking at the horror of fairy tales and rolling up its own sleeves to pen some pretty gruesome passages, while also speaking, through the mouths of various characters, about Carl Jung and collective dreaming, Gaia and the haughty human sense of sovereignty, and taking some pleasure in relaying a revenge fantasy wherein it is the natural environment that takes revenge, sending floods and murderous trees, setting free the zoos and welcoming some children into its own fold, out in the dark of the deep woods.

Spencer Dew, Decomp Magazine

One of the most extraordinary reading experiences I've had in years. The breadth of imaginative construction, especially in the latter half of the book when the city becomes colonized, is eye-popping... Sylvow is quite an achievement.

Neil Williamson, author of "The Ephemera"

...There is much more to Sylvow than simply man against nature. The focus is as much on the characters whose lives are distorted by the encroaching doom as on the doom itself.

The cast themselves are a fascinating mix... Engaging, not always likeable, these characters earn our trust and concern, which makes the eventual, and surreal, destruction of their lives, so much more poignant.

Yet there is also a cold, somewhat brutal heart beating in this novel, a hard, as unflinching as nature itself and just as red in tooth and claw... The soulless, ruthlessness of plants, the desperate, uncompromising fight for survival by living entities that possess a life we cannot hope to comprehend is vividly and unflinchingly portrayed.

This novel is reminiscent of the disaster stories of J G Ballard, the most obvious comparison being The Crystal World. However, Douglas Thompson is very much his own man and the style, imagery, and the sheer surrealism of the novel’s latter segments are most definitely products of a very fertile imagination. Like most of Douglas Thompsons’ work, the beautifully packaged and illustrated Sylvow is a challenge, but for the serious reader, it is a challenge well worth the effort.

Terry Grimwood, Exaggerated Press


If you’re fed up with mainstream science fiction, Sylvow will offer you a different kind of reading experience, because it’s a weird and fascinating combination of horror, science fiction, environmental issues and philosophical elements. Sylvow is one of the weirdest books I’ve read, but it’s weird in a good way.

Seregil of Rhimenee, Rising Shadow


Environmental Armageddon has become a staple of modern science fiction, and it's already been imagined in so many different ways. But whatever you were expecting the end to look like, I'm pretty sure it wasn't much like Douglas Thompson's Sylvow.

Sylvow is unconventional in thought as well as in the way it's presented, so prepare to have your preconceptions challenged. Although there's a section in the middle where Douglas Thompson seems to be on the verge of reiterating a few trite platitudes about respect for nature and man's blindness to natural beauty, he soon expands the debate into something much more wide-ranging and ambiguous in its conclusions.

...spicy, horrific and downright bizarre in places ...what I really found to admire in Sylvow was the novel and intelligent way it encourages readers to consider the relationship between man and nature in a new light.

Ros Jackson, Warpcore SF


“…the hallmark of this talented and imaginative writer remains clear. This is quality writing that grips the reader with an almost guilty pleasure…

…The horror elements are expertly crafted and extreme as the forest and its components encroach upon the city and its inhabitants. The characters are unusual and well drawn, providing depth to the narrative…

…this is a superb and important novel that combines horror and fantasy elements, cleverly interweaving them into an apocalyptic tale that resonates with our feelings about the ecology of the planet and imagines an original scenario where the tables are turned masterfully and devastatingly against us.”

Trevor Denyer - Midnight Street


“…Thompson’s work reads something like a moral tact, winking at the horror of fairy tales and rolling up its own sleeves to pen some pretty gruesome passages, while also speaking, through the mouths of various characters, about Carl Jung and collective dreaming, Gaia and the haughty human sense of sovereignty, and taking some pleasure in relaying a revenge fantasy wherein it is the natural environment that takes revenge, sending floods and murderous trees, setting free the zoos and welcoming some children into its own fold, out in the dark of the deep woods.”

Spencer Dew - Decomp Magazine



Douglas Thompson graduated from the Mackintosh School of Architecture in 1989, went to busk on the London Underground and won the Grolsch/Herald Question of Style Award for new writing, all in one strange summer. Since then he has published short stories in a wide range of magazines and anthologies, most recently New Writing Scotland, Chapman, Ambit, and reviewed architecture for The Herald. He won second prize in the Neil Gunn Writing Competition in 2007, and currently works as an architectural designer and computer 3d-visualiser. His first novel, “Ultrameta”, was published by Eibonvale Press in August 2009, and hailed as “a new form or literature for a new century” and “a modern classic” by Sci-Fi Online.

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