The Paradox Twins: Joshua Chaplinsky
Reviewed By Ben Walker
Fans of Joshua Chaplinsky’s previous works may already know how he likes to subvert storytelling by using unusual delivery methods, and this novel features an imaginative way of getting its sci-fi tinged ghost story/family drama across.
Instead of an A-B narrative, the story here is laid out in the form of snippets gathered from police reports, call transcripts, obituaries, critical essays and competing extracts from books written by the three main characters. What’s especially effective is the use of the screenplay format for some of the more fast-paced or creepy moments, which really makes those scenes stand out. You’re constantly being surprised by the shift in format, and you may think this sounds gimmicky, but the plot flows expertly from one disparate source to the next. It feels like something best experienced on paper, rather than as an ebook, to increase that feeling of pawing through a carefully collated bunch of research, in the same way that House of Leaves doesn’t quite hit home the same way if you’re reading it on a device.
As for the twins themselves, as adults meeting again after the death of their father, weirdness creeps its way into their lives in the form of a spirit they call the Spaceman. And as with so many stories where characters are picking up the pieces after a death, secrets lurk in the background too. There’s a gradual drip-feed of intrigue as the brothers catch up after a long absence, and become interested in a young woman who may hold some answers to their familial mystery.
There’s a healthy dose of humour to go alongside the infrequent moments of spookiness, thanks to the characters naturalistic dialogue, and also from occasional footnotes delivered by the author, referred to here as more of a webmaster for the site this story links with (see unravelingtheparadox.com). These extra nuggets of narration bring to mind the same snarky interruptions Douglas Adams or Terry Pratchett would make to underline (or take the piss out of) various elements of the worlds they created.
Above all this is a story about family and how the past can haunt you in different ways. It’s an enjoyable ride, stuttering slightly to get going at the beginning, but always brought back on track thanks to the constant shifts of storytelling format, and the occasional chill. The ending in particular shines a slightly different light on everything that went before, delivering one final shiver before the curtain falls. Well worth a look.
The Paradox Twins
The Paradox Twins is a copyright-infringing biographical collage that exists on the Internet, pieced together by an unknown auteur.
Named for the famous thought experiment, it concerns estranged twin brothers who reunite at their father’s funeral to discover they no longer look alike. Haunted by the past (and possibly the future), they move into their father’s house to settle his affairs, only to reignite old rivalries and uncover long-hidden secrets, most of which involve the young woman who lives next door.
An epistolary work comprised of excerpts from various memoirs, novels, screenplay adaptations, and documents of public record, The Paradox Twins is an experimental, sci-fi ghost story about the scariest, most unknowable quantity there is-family.
Ben got a taste for terror after sneaking downstairs to watch The Thing from behind the sofa at age 9. He’s a big fan of extreme & bizarre horror and well as more psychological frights, and most things in between. When he’s not reading, he’s writing, and when he’s not writing he’s on Twitter @BensNotWriting or reviewing books on his YouTube channel, BLURB.