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Bewildering Stories

Michael E. Lloyd, Observation Two:
Standing Divided

reviewed by Stefan Brenner

Observation Two
Observation Two

Author: Michael E. Lloyd
Publisher: Bewildering Press, 2008
Length: 312 pp.
ISBN: 0978744365 or
From Old World to New:
a Serious Eye on Reality

The second installment of Michael E. Lloyd’s “Observation” trilogy, Standing Divided, catapults the reader from the fanciful European orbit traversed by Singing of Promises and down into some serious dirty dealing at the heart of modern America.

As the plot thickens and the stakes escalate for both Dome and Earth, Lloyd’s hand remains rock-steady at the helm as he guides his motley cast of characters, some old and others new, through convoluted coils of terrestrial politicking and stormy seas of emotional turbulence.

The ever-increasing urgency of the Doman mission to Earth is marked by a shift in style; playful improvisation gives way to an altogether darker, more serious tone. These changes are accentuated as the action moves from one side of the Atlantic to the other. Echoing the transformations in plot and style, Observation One’s typically adolescent human attachments make way for the deeper and more durable bonds of adulthood, while both the pleasure and pain derived from these vital engagements is enhanced in equal measure.

This is important. As an author, Lloyd does not wish to protect us from unpleasant reality: what counts is truth. Often, however, truth is not easy to find. As Dome and Earth lock horns in an elaborate courtship dance, negotiations are hampered by episode after episode of misunderstanding, attempted manipulation and sheer bloody-mindedness. Lloyd shows us how inevitable are these small errors in judgment, even between the most well-meaning of individuals; and how the smallest misinterpretation of intent is magnified by being passed up a chain of command.

Because of its depth and complexity, Observation Two: Standing Divided requires a proper engagement on the part of the reader. Lloyd’s satirical deconstructions of modern-day control structures are not for the lazy of mind. But this is not a criticism: I believe that a book should both entertain and educate. However, as the author remarks, speaking through the mouth of his anti-hero, Toni:

‘... few people actually read books these days. The novels you find on the shelves of the supermarkets are usually trite, fast-action melodramas for impatient readers who can’t wait for the next sensational event.’

Well, I have a feeling that Toni would approve of Lloyd’s “Observations.” Standing Divided is witty, engaging, accessible, and certainly not trite. Moreover, quite apart from absorbing the wisdom contained in its pages, the observant reader will have a great time spotting the (hidden) song titles. I can hardly wait for the final installment!

Copyright © 2009 by Stefan Brenner

Mr. Brenner’s review of Observation One appears in issue 263.

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