One-Inch Punch is Oran Ryan's third novel after The Death of Finn (2006) and Ten Short Novels by Arthur Cruger (2006). A Dublin writer, the city plays a role in the story, in particular as the opening location for the meeting of the two main characters, Gordon Brock and Ed Frasier. The immediate animosity towards Ed that Gordon expresses creates the basis for the exploration of how this situation came about and how a young boy can be scarred by his tormentors.
Gordon Brock is a gifted child and as with many children in this situation he does not fit in with the other kids. With parents who are keen for him to socialise and make friends even though he is happy in his solitude, he encounters Ed, a bully, who exposes his motives of trying to be 'normal'. This questioning of the self and inability to just get on with life in an unthinking way sets Gordon out as different and his actions through his life, relationships included, are all dredged up for questioning.
Ryan is an intelligent writer. The book is by no means lightweight and challenges the reader to question society with its structures and accepted paths. In the post-modern way of writing, this is a book about someone writing a book and also has footnotes to expand on the text. Ryan's own obvious serious consideration about life and the way of relationships experienced between children, lovers and friends comes through in the novel. There is also a humorous undertone to the novel, in a black sense where Ryan sees the ridiculousness of some of the things that go on in everyday life.
Above all, One-Inch Punch is about a genius, not an easy gift to be born with. The early acknowledgement by the main character that basically everyone else operates at a different thought speed to himself cannot fail to affect. That it has a negative impact makes him a victim of his genius and removes any belief in the world at large projects onto those he encounters. The reader cannot fail to leave this book with questions about how such people, those with exceptional talent, do manage to function in an average society. That many do in fact feel isolated by their gift or become disillusioned and opt out of the mainstream never meeting their full potential cannot be a surprise. The subject of genius is obviously one of great interest and one I left this book thinking I would have to explore more.
One-Inch Punch is published by Seven Towers www.seventowers.ie