Author: Tom Bray
Self Published in 2020
Review by Miriam Atkinson
Merging the Drift is the first in a trilogy by Tom Bray and is equal parts drama, thriller and mystery. The novel alternates between four central characters – Ali, Danny, Kitty, Kerri – who are each trying to understand their own existence and place in the world. Much of the novel is dedicated to the concept of the afterlife. The Drift is a place where children who pass too soon get the opportunity to grow in safety and view the life they could have led. As the Drift and the real world seemingly cross-over, the protagonists lives spiral more and more out of control.
Mystery is a key element of the story; with all four of the main characters either keeping secrets or having strange events occurring to or following them. Ali is trying to uncover the truth of the Drift and his place in it. Time plays havoc on Danny’s life as in the span of a few minutes he seemingly loses hours of his day. Kitty’s biggest secret is that she is the only person who can see Kerri; meanwhile Kerri is an enigma wrapped in a mystery. Able to manipulate a person’s thoughts, will Kerri’s true identity ever be revealed?
One word building feature I did sometimes find confusing was The Viewing. The Viewing is where members of the Drift can watch an alternative reality of how their lives could have been had they lived. Even though I knew early on that Ali had died as a young child, many of his chapters are set, at least partially, in his Viewing. Ali has such a strong belief in and feelings towards what he is seeing/experiencing that I wasn’t always sure if The Viewing world was fictional or not.
To be fair, I sensed when reading Merging the Drift that Bray intentionally enjoyed making his readers theorise about where the boundary between realities and truth lay. Although I personally would have preferred more build up to Ali entering his Viewing (to allay some of my confusion) I do appreciate that we, the reader, are invited to work out the mysteries along with the characters and therefore cannot have all the information revealed too quickly.
My favourite part of the plot was the final reveal in the last few chapters. It was satisfying to see the characters lives and the various narrative threads being woven together as the final full picture was built up and unveiled. Bray also includes a couple of excellent plot twists in his novel’s conclusion. One I managed to guess a few of chapters before the reveal but the other genuinely took me by surprise.
Some final thoughts on Merging the Drift:
- As with a lot of new novels, it did take me a little while to get used to the characters and the new worlds being presented in the story.
- There are numerous details and linking threads in the story and I’m sure there were some I missed. I feel as though this is a book that should be read twice to be fully appreciated as certain details would take on greater meaning after you know the ending of the book.
- Dealing with the death of children and abuse, I thought the themes were handled carefully but I do understand that this novel will not appeal to everyone.
- Despite being the first in a trilogy, the story actually ends quite neatly with all major questions answered. While I don’t know the events of the sequels, for now I’ll say that Merging the Drift feels like it could work both as a self contained story and as a stepping off point to explore the wider world of the Drift.
WARNING: Merging the Drift does contain several themes that are unsuitable for younger readers and themes that older reader may not be comfortable with. Merging the Drift deals with issues of death, the death of children, child abuse and sexual abuse.
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