“Eyepennies” by Mike O’Driscoll – A Review

“Eyepennies” by Mike O’Driscoll

(TTA Press, £5.99)

I remember when the first TTA Press novella came out, in 2010. I reviewed Gary McMahon’s The Harm back then, and was excited at the prospect of a series of such novellas. Over two years later I was beginning to lose hope. But here it is, the first in a series of five new novellas.

And what a start it is. Mike O’Driscoll will be known to some as a columnist from TTA’s Black Static magazine, writing about the nature of horror. This is the first piece of his fiction (I think) that I’ve read, and it gives me a whole raft of new respect for his non-fiction.

Told in a fractured, non-linear style, Eyepennies follows a musician called Mark, who after surviving a near-death experience faces feelings of depression, darkness, and a sense that he didn’t come back from the other side completely right.

This is classic psychological horror, and it’s beautifully written. The prose is a dream, and rolls poetically off the page into images and metaphors that O’Driscoll paints effortlessly and with such clarity that even the abstract nature of the subject matter cannot cloud.

The plot is loosely — and chillingly — based around the life and death of the real-world musician Mark Linkous, whom O’Driscoll credits in the introduction, and those allusions give the novella a sense of realism without feeling at all disrespectful. It creates a darkly beautiful picture of the cracks running through a life from the impact point of a trauma.

Would I recommend it? Absolutely. It’s one of those works where you keep reading section after section, even after having promised yourself that you’ll put it down and go to sleep. It gets into your mind and will stay with you even after you do finish it (and with the length of it at around 20,000 words, it’s something that can be read in one sitting), seeping into your thoughts.

Mike O’Driscoll has weaved an excellent novella, and weaved it well. It’s well written and the characters leap off the page with a flair that brings them  to life. If this is setting the scene for the four TTA novellas to come, then I’m feeling just as excited about the prospect as I was in May 2010.


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