COLLISIONS is best selling author AFN Clarke's first work of fiction, a surreal novel about a soldier's near death experience. It was published not long after his bestselling autobiography CONTACT.
David Trowse, a critically injured soldier is close to the edge of death and to losing his mind. In the struggle to survive he tries to ravel together fragments of his past with the present - both civilian and military - to revive old interests, acquaintances and find the common thread of his life again. But the pieces obstinately refuse to fit; anachronisms begin to jar and old relationships are tangled with new.
The pattern that ought to emerge keeps lurching alarmingly into nightmare and horror, as reality takes on aspects of fantasy. The contradictions rush together in a series of increasingly violent collisions, and accelerate to a petrifying climax that casts reality itself in doubt.
This is a both fascinating and disturbing novel, a look inside the mind of a well-trained killer who is also a creative, caring, soulful individual who has undergone violent, traumatic, life-threatening and heart-wrenching experiences, and is trying to find his mental, emotional and spiritual centre again.
COLLISIONS draws on AFN Clarke’s own near death experiences, and readers beware - the violence is graphic as is the language frank - but the authenticity of the experience requires it, requires the reader to live each word and feel the fire within.
For adult readers only (graphic violence, frank language).
First published in hardback by Martin Secker & Warburg 1986.
Book length: 256 pages
Though a book of fiction, COLLISIONS is loosely based on my own nightmare after being medevacked from Crossmaglen to a Military Hospital in Belfast at the end of my second tour as a Platoon Commander with Britain's Parachute Regiment during the "Troubles" in Northern Ireland, and then undergoing a series of life-saving surgeries the following year. A nightmare of trying to deal with war, death, family, my own near demise, that twilight zone between life and death.
It's the closest I have ever written to what some readers would describe as 'psychological horror', all my more recent novels being more light, fast paced, thrillers, mysteries, dramas or humorous satires - which hopefully is a testament to how far I have come in my own life these days!
But Collisions is an important book, because so many soldiers and others recovering from some sort of life and death experience do feel like they are losing their minds and find it hard to mesh two very different realities and experiences of the world into one healthy life.
An epic, dreamy, surreal and yet somehow real journey. It takes a man seriously injured in the heat of an unimaginable and very real war zone, to an even bigger battle to regain sanity and his own sense of identity.
I found myself relating to the nightmarish quality of the journey while at the same time having no idea how anyone could survive such a deep profound process required to return to normality ... a journey that at times seems real and unreal all at once.
AFN Clarke's first book, CONTACT, caused a furore in its devastatingly honest portrayal of the realities of the life of a soldier in Northern Ireland.
COLLISIONS, his first novel, displays a parallel talent. Mesmerically gripping and profoundly disturbing, this is a voice that commands attention.
A surreal journey inside the main character's mind as he tries to make sense of a life at the extremes, teetering at the edges of reality and near death.
After all that he has experienced the pieces of his life don't go together in the same way, yet he needs to find the thread of 'who he is' again. A disturbing yet relatable journey for any of us dealing with our demons and determined to move beyond them by not allowing them to define who we are or how we see the world.