After 150 pages, one may think one knows where this novel is heading, but one really doesn’t.
On the beach near Claire and Andy’s house, the (real), and really odd Liverpudlian metal statues of the same figure repeated dozens of times, staring out to sea, sometimes seem to have one less member, or perhaps one more. On the horizon, giant windmills tilt at the sky, always intruding into Claire and Andy’s perceptions of that environment.
Campbell’s novels have often tugged and pulled at the nature of reality, perhaps most notably and successfully in Incarnate and The Grin of the Dark. Well, he’s back at reality again, in a novel that functions as a sequel of sorts — or perhaps more accurately a shared-universe tale — as related to a previous but recent novel and a 40-year-old short story that turned out to have a concept within it that adapted well to the Age of Internet. Naming that novel and that short story would reveal too much, too soon of the novel’s clever shift midway through, and knowledge of the two isn’t necessary to enjoying The Seven Days of Cain, though that knowledge does add to the enjoyment — and the level of existential disturbance.
The Seven Days of Cain supplies a lot of Campbell’s trademarked description, both vivid and intensely allusive, that can sometimes make a story seem disturbingly dream-like, as background and midground and foreground collapse into one (the story does feature a photographer as a protagonist, after all). No one will be punished for anything resembling a “real” crime here, but punishment — or judgement — is coming nonetheless. Why and for whom? Read the emails carefully. Don’t stand too long on the beach. Don’t check your spam box too often. Highly recommended.