Sunday, July 15, 2012

♥♥♥♥: The Journey by Dan O'Brien

Release Date: April 16th, 2012
Publisher: CreateSpace (self-published)
Page Count: 176
Source: Complimentary copy provided by author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you!)

The Frozen Man. The Translucent Man. The Burning Man. The Wicker Man. The guide known only as the Crossroads, together these are the signposts and totems of the world that the being called the Lonely inhabits. Seeking out the meaning of his journey, the Lonely is a being consumed by philosophical inquiry and adventure. Filled with exotic places and age-old questions, the Journey is a book that seeks to merge the fantastical and real. Join the Lonely as he seeks out answers to his own existence and perhaps the meaning for us all.
What Stephanie Thinks: I will say I've never read a book quite like The Journey... I don't really know what much else I can say about it. The novel follows the spiritual (read: imaginary) voyage of a soul named Th'bir, who loses (though later rediscovers) his identity at the embarkment of realm in-betweens, and thus is referred to as The Lonely. At first, The Lonely is as confused and in the dark as readers are—he doesn't know who he is, where he's from, or what he's doing at the surreal crossroads of discovery, but he, and we, are soon to find out.

He is instructed to receive guidance from various beings, but they're not really beings, not really human. They aren't necessarily gods or spirits either. They just are. From the Frozen Man he learns of the "necessity of logic ... the infallibility of thinking and observing without emotional bias in order to find the meaning of things" (74), from The Burning Man, he discovers "the obscurity of definition, the reality of emotional content and the inspection of all things created and man-made to find out their deeper significance. To perhaps approach life and the realities of what that encompasses from a humanistic position, to see how they apply to the individual, not as a broad statistical judgment taken without relevance to how stratified life truly is." In other words, The Lonely is exposed to infinite, inconsistent ideas, and it is up to him to analyze and sort them out on his own. It is up to him to reconstruct himself out of the ideas he is thrown, and the long, grueling spiritual journey is where it will happen.

Existence, as well as the purpose of life and death are also pondered upon. While the notions and wisdom conveyed are thought-provoking—I found myself engaged in concepts that were always in the back of my head, but never really brushed upon until O'Brien mentioned them—I found this book overall to just be weird. There's no real plot, no real characters, no real point, and that to me, is unsettling. The structure is a mess, and the flow very hard to follow. I'd love so much to just accept a story like this for how it is, in all of its philosophical and psychological disarray, but I could hardly make sense of, let alone enjoy it, so I'm afraid it isn't something I could recommend.

Dan O'Brien is not a letdown with words, though. His style is lush and fast-paced, nothing I have to dig too deeply with, very easily skimmable. Which is why it's a shame how the absence of essence made The Journey a difficult read. Reminiscent of Nicolai's The Case, the cluttered plot, unclear intention, and ambiguous storyline constitute this story, and they really are all it has to offer. This book is very new age-y—strange, but not in an intriguing way, just in a "what the fuck did I just read" way. Maybe after a bit of polishing and refinement, I could try this one again, but for now, no thank you.

Stephanie Loves: "'Men find validity in their lives from histories and proofs, ignoring the mysterious beauty that surrounds them and the thrall of those things unexplained. Babies grow into children and then into adults. First, they are cared for greatly for in order to be able to care for the generation next and so on, as needed. However, in youth there is a time during which we learn of something that we often too easily let go of: imagination."

Radical Rating: 4 hearts: So-so; reading this book may cause wrinkles (from frowning so much). ♥♥♥♥