TAMPER: A Book Review
I recently read a book by my friend Bill Ectric and reviewed it below. The book can be purchased on Amazon. Also check out his blog at: https://billectric.wordpress.com/
Tamper by Bill Ectric
Bill Ectric’s novel, Tamper, spans the life of the protagonist from his early childhood into early adulthood, not always chronologically, while exploring the intersection of madness and the supernatural. Whit, the main character and founding editor of The Astral Beat, a local newspaper reporting on the paranormal, is haunted, but by what? Is it his past, his struggles with addiction, a strange twist of mind, or is it ghosts, or even a long forgotten race of aliens tunneling under the earth? This book has a dreamlike quality as the protagonist barely maintains a balance between the reality of his life growing up in the small Virginia town of Hansburg, and the surreality of his peripheral glimpses into the inexplicable.
Whit’s hold on reality is somewhat tenuous. After a medical release from the Navy, he finds himself unable to function and moves back in with his parents, while his former friends go on with their lives: college, military careers, and families. Whit has time to think again about his tabloid, The Astral Beat, his obsession with the number four, and a science fiction writer named Richard Shaver, who believed that a race of abandoned aliens lived in tunnels underground and used a technique called “tamper” to interfere with human brains. If it is hard for the reader to figure out whether or not Whit believes in ghosts and Shaver’s aliens, it is just as hard for Whit. The possibility of these otherworldly entities helps him explain and explore what is taking place inside his own head, but he seems cognizant of the fact that his mind is an untrustworthy apparatus for sorting reality.
With the help of some very understanding friends and an author famous for writing about the supernatural, Whit finds himself on a strange trip to investigate Richard Shaver’s tales of tunnel dwelling creatures, a trip that simultaneously propels him back out into reality and back into the recesses of his strange mind.
This novel is as much a psychological examination of the supernatural as it is an action story. The dreamlike quality casts a sort of hazy enchantment over Whit’s narration. One is led to ask whether Whit is obsessed merely with coincidence and self- invented connections, or whether there might be something or someone on the edge of reality, figures darting in the corner of the eye, something tampering with his brain. Readers who wonder just how much of reality is constructed and who is constructing it will appreciate this journey with Whit.
Just watched a documentary on Charles Bukowski. And there is one thing I deeply admire about him. He did not live under the illusion that other people were too fragile for him. He was not worried about other people’s feelings being hurt by the truth, That is respect. Did he sometimes go full asshole? Maybe. But he told the truth and that’s how you respect people.
I could never write like Charles Bukowski and I don’t really want to. For one thing, I do not long to hang out at the race track or to spend inordinate amounts of time in bars. (Mostly.) That honesty though. The respect. Those are things I wish I could copy. Realistically, I am a manipulator. I don’t play to others' strengths. I attempt to manipulate them at their weak points. And here’s the thing. Manipulators sometimes make you feel better about yourself than honest people. Honest people rattle your brains and burst your bubbles. They knock you to the ground and ask if you want to get back up again and go another round. They make you fight and they make you strong. What honest people do is painful and annoying. And it’s good for you.
I don’t want to say things that may disturb others’ serenity. Sometimes it seems easier just not to make other people think. Sometimes I’d rather not think myself. There is a great deal of uncertainty bumping around in this skull. The pretense of certainty is much, much more comfortable than the questions. Hooking back up to the matrix is preferable to reality. It’s tempting. So tempting that many people do it without a second thought.
What people want from writing most of the time, is a simple reflection of whatever illusion they have managed to spin around themselves, glitter added and some soft spun feelings in the shape of fuzzy bunnies and sunsets. I know…that’s what I want sometimes as well. There’s a price to pay for listening, for walking out of the warmth of false certainty into a reality that is bigger than you are. And perhaps there is a time and a place for the warm haze of illusion. But it seems to me that as a society we are becoming more and more likely, and I mean all of us, not certain parties or certain religions, to opt out, to find a group that gives us comfort and to live inside heavily fortified city walls. We fight to stay out of the reality wars. We plan the siege that traps us in our own city.
Maybe we need more people who are willing to commit to the jail break. Maybe I should be one of them.