There are two journeys in this novella.
The first is a physical one. A nightmare of sorts. It’s Roger who’s taking the trip. Picked up at gunpoint, he travels round on a ghost train where every stop is full of unpleasant surprises.
The second is an internal voyage, Roger struggling to work out what’s happening, how he’s feeling and what he’s going to do about his situation.
Both overlap to produce a curious perspective of the evening. By watching the events unfold and also hearing a commentary of sorts, the views blur into one with neither carrying more weight than the other. It’s a bit like looking through a stereoscope and taking a while to adjust to the view until it creates a 3-Dimensional gem that drifts in and out of focus like the dreams of broken sleep. Which is what D’Stair does. He creates a gem of a story that is as unsettling as it is vividly real.
From the beginning, it’s clear that this is no ordinary work. There are no dots to join up, no templates to offer comfort and no traditional plot lines to guide us through. In many ways we’re on our own, just like Roger. And to make matters worse, it’s as if we’re right in there and holding the camera, Blair Witch style, witnessing the horrendous events unfold. Like Roger himself, we’ve been kidnapped and taken on a journey we’d rather have nothing to do with.
I've never read a D'Stair story that I haven't thoroughly enjoyed and Man Standing Behind is no exception. It has the hallmark snappiness in the dialogue, the laconic phrasing and the exceptional observation of detail as well as the disorientation of being taken into the unknown.
Which is my review. If you have no more idea of what the book's about than when you came along, then I reckon I've pretty much done my job. It's an intense and gripping piece and I think you should give it a read. Just don't expect sweetness and light.