Between a Rock and A Hard Place
A Review of Brighton Rock by Graham Greene. 
by Kate Wilson

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Having read recently James Smythe’s brand new SF thriller The Explorer, I now know what a dilemma is. Catch 22 isn't in it. Cormac, a young journalist, is adrift aboard a spaceship with a dead crew. The ship itself is caught in an anomaly, which has him re-living each death as it happens, including his own. At each successive re-enactment he desperately tries to undo the fatal sequence of events, only to find that at each intervention he himself has caused a death. 

Cormac's loss of control is in Smythe’s rendering a powerful metaphor for the ultimate dilemma of man’s condition, but it is a dilemma without God. At his end, Cormac is swallowed by the ‘darkest part of space', a nothingness which he realizes will go ‘onwards forever’ whether or not he is there to see it. 

By contrast, in Brighton Rock, Graham Greene’s most Catholic1 of novels , the hand of God is everywhere. Moreover, the Catholic beliefs of the central characters with their emphasis on sin, redemption and damnation bring an exquisite refinement to the dilemmas which beset them. 

Picture: First edition cover (Wikipedia)