Metronome by Tom Watson

Published: 2022 1. First lines 2. Cover: Bloomsbury 3. Man woman [Public Domain] via piqsels 4. Cabin [Public Domain] via Rawpixel

Set in the future, Aina and Whitney are exiled for twelve years to a remote island where they are left to fend for themselves, relying on a ‘pill clock’ to dispense timed medication. As the time for their release nears, Aina begins to suspect that Whitney has been keeping secrets from her. What if their island is not an island after all?

“The body’s the only real prison there is.”

I found this book to be intriguing, original, and engrossing. The Guardian thinks (negatively) that the author “seems less interested in the wider political and social reality of his world than in the mundane detail of the characters’ lives and the bleakness of the landscape they inhabit” but I think this a strength of the narrative, something that adds to the mounting tension and creepiness, and also the sense of being totally cut off from the world. In fact, I felt as if I was inhabiting the island with Aina and Whitney, and agree with Litromagazine‘s assessment of the author’s skill with language: “In every chapter, paragraph and sentence we are invited to ask how we feel, how Watson has made us feel. Whether its excitement, fear, trepidation, loss, disappointment . . . We feel it because that’s the way the characters feel at the time and Watson writes descriptions superbly, notably in his use of the elements.”


“Those cold uncertain days are the ones she will never forget. The Warden had collected them on the mainland and taken them for processing. He did not tell them any more than he had to, just the minimum about the melting ice and how it had effected the permafrost, releasing spumes of toxic bacteria, which is why they needed the pills.”

Author: Tom Watson

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