Thumb is like nothing I’ve read before, and I absolutely loved it. If this is steampunk, I’m a convert, but if you are already a fan, don’t expect steam-powered horses and musketeers taking potshots at airships. The atmosphere is more like the original Star Trek series, complete with polystyrene scenery and murky colour, but instead of being set in a studio, the playground is an immense dull orange wasteland littered with waste building materials, stretching thousands and thousands of miles, punctuated by wormholes stretching back millions and millions of years. This immensity is broken by man-made monuments that soar high above the clouds, secured and protected by chains and gun installations of colossal proportions, but higher, bigger, more colossal than anything imaginable is God. Or rather God’s body. For this wasteland strewn with rubbish is the table on which God is slowly but surely being constructed.
Into this vastness, in the shadow of God’s left thumb, John Collick has set his handful of characters. Each is a brilliantly-drawn, real human being, Max and Abby are both tough and hard-bitten, funny and a bit gauche, with enough of the little child searching for a lost affection to be terribly endearing. Even when the story veers from Indiana Jones type adventure to surreal horror, it never loses its tenderness and humour. The not so endearing characters are true products of an immense, impersonal world, cold and relentless as machines.
In this flat singularity, rolled out in space like a giant workbench, there seems to be nothing but machines. And, of course, God. Ever-present, too colossal to see, the carcass of God fills the world, the atmosphere and beyond. After a million years of work, God is almost complete; all he needs is his mind. The construction of God’s mind though, is proving a far more hazardous enterprise than all the rest, and not everything in the universe is happy about the idea of God’s completion.
Max and Abby find themselves at the centre of one of the most original concepts I have ever read in a fantasy story: protecting the creatures who each possess a part of God’s mind, from the villains, human and alien, who want to destroy them. To say any more would spoil the story.
This is a remarkably creative piece of writing, highly recommended to anyone who enjoys sci-fi/fantasy, steampunk, or 1960s TV space operas.
Thumb, by John Guy Collick