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A man wakes up with no memory of who he is or how he arrived in what appears to be a strange junkyard. To keep his sanity he documents his time in this strange place in a journal he stumbles across. Days pass and hunger and thirst drives him to begin exploring his surroundings which seems to be an endless assortment of random items, such as furniture, cars, books and even a London bus, not to mention a three-foot tall mushroom field but he realises he is not alone when a strange, vicious looking dog like creature begins to loiter near him that he dubs DogThing - but is this creature friend or foe? When zombies begin to attack and DogThing protects him he gets his answer, and overcome by strange dreams and thoughts entering his mind he begins a quest to try to find out what the devil is going on, leading him to meet several trapped spirits, Rudy and Professor Adler that try to help him. But things become deadly when he realises he is being stalked by CutterJack, a mysterious being that seems to control things in this bleak world and is out for his blood. Can this man evade CutterJack long enough to escape or will he too succumb as all other creatures seem to and remain trapped forever in this displaced world?
Diary of the Displaced, written by Glynn James - a dark fantasy writer, is certainly one of the more original books I've read in a long time...original and downright weird - although to be fair I don't normally read the fantasy genre, so the style of this book may be par for the course and I just don't know it! Reading the story through diary format is an intriguing style as you instantly pick up the growing personality of this captive man, a man that starts as a blank slate due to amnesia but begins to show traits of tenacity and resourcefulness as well as a touch of dry humour as events unfold around him. Effectively you can do nothing but go along on the journey with him, but of course you are only to privy to what is written down so are just picking up snippets of what is happening from his one perspective keeping you as much in the dark as the narrator is about how anything has transpired which gives the plot a thoroughly mysterious feel to it.
Through the observations of our narrator and interactions between himself and them, James is also able to characterise our friendly neighbourhood ghosts Rudy and Professor Adler, who are two fun ghouls and help stave off the loneliness our narrator would have otherwise suffered from. Rudy is a slightly discombobulated character that has simply existed for an indeterminate number of years and as a result is very detached and matter of fact about the darker side of things which often has very humorous effects and we get a very rude and grump introduction to Professor Adler which is also amusing. These two characters are integral to filling in a lot of the blanks and the background of this wasteland they are all trapped in as well as revealing much more about the malignant creature that is CutterJack. His characterisation is also superbly done, as he has a creepy omniscience about him and his seeming invincibility and ruthless stalking makes for an evil and sinister being that adds that extra level of fear to the story.
The wasteland our narrator finds himself in for no discernible reason is utterly bizarre and it does all feel like one big hallucinogenic trip with giant dog-like creatures called maws, zombies, enormous slug-like creatures called gargants in swamp lands, large and vicious lizard-like creatures, ghosts, giant mushrooms (not magic though) and you pretty much just have to shake off any earthly preconceptions before reading this story and accept it is a story of total fantasy, and then you can believe anything. The laws of physics do not apply here. But there is something appealing about James' total disregard for normalcy as you cannot possibly guess what the next abnormality around the corner is going to be which makes for a brilliantly fascinating fantasy world and total escapism from reality.
The story is quite short at only 240 pages, but given that it is written entirely as diary entries you wouldn't expect an epic as there would be a lot of padding required to achieve that. There is quite a lot of description in this story in order to fully realise the world our narrator finds himself in which does occasionally make the flow of the story a little sluggish especially in the beginning, but it also creates a wonderful sense of bafflement and confusion that makes this story a slow burner as truths are revealed with teasing leisureliness. The style of writing is very free flowing and easy to read and James finds stylish ways to make these seemingly mundane descriptions as interesting as possible, such as the writing of inventories and using the humorous personality of the narrator to good effect so you remain hooked at all times, even when all is quiet.
What also makes this story work so well is the way danger sneaks up on our narrator as he is just plodding along trying to make sense of the wasteland he is in, when bam, he is attacked and the excitement levels of the story is suddenly increased tenfold. Zombie attacks are the most frequent danger source, although fairly sporadic, and they are quite disturbing as their hideous appearances and the gory outcome to the skirmishes as well as our narrator's visceral reactions to them are vividly described and act as a stark contrast to the eerily peaceful state before. After that first unexpected attack the pace of the story steadily increases as you become more alert and attuned to potential danger and from then on out there is an unshakeable underlying tension. But the real terror begins when CutterJack, the evil puppet master, steps onto the scene...
In conclusion, Diary of the Displaced is a terrific piece of dark fantasy. Short but sweet, the terrifying world created is completely mad, and our narrator's journey to navigate this hell is quite gripping with plenty of excitement and intrigue throughout, with just a subtle hint of humour. The ending had a great twist to it which I could never have predicted, and it was very satisfying even though it became clear that this was just the first book in a series and so whilst this book concluded the time our narrator spent in this land, there is just so much of this story left to be told, which I am personally looking forward to. I would definitely recommend this book to fans of fantasy or Sci-Fi, but I think you would have to be the type of person willing to suspend belief in order to fully appreciate this story in its full glory.