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Down-Bound Train

Novel by Bill Garnett 1973.

Five people, all with something to hide, catch the famous Golden Arrow train. However, they soon discover that their ride is far from normal; everybody else seems to have completely vanished from the train, the electricity has gone off, and the scenery gets gradually more unworldly as the trip goes on. As each of them descends into or towards madness, only the little girl knows where they are all really headed.

Marketed by Robert Hale as a sf novel, only the cover gives away its true nature with a picture of a screaming woman's face. Really this works on a mediļæ½val theme, that of a literal descent into hell, but it doesn't seem to be old-fashioned or out-of-date and it never seems to dwell in the past: what happens to the characters in the story happens now and seems potent and unnerving. The only reason that it doesn't deserve that good a rating is the lack of attention sometimes given to holding up the characterisation of the promisingly fascinating members of the cast. Nevertheless, enjoyably different.


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