Jeremy C. Shipp
Raw Dog Screaming Press, Trade $13.95
Reviewed by Nickolas Cook
It’s great to see it when a new author pops out of seemingly nowhere with a clear and disturbing vision to pass onto the world. Jeremy C. Shipp’s novel from Raw Dog Screaming Press, Vacation, culls inspiration from such greats as Phillip K. Dick, Franz Kafka, and William Burroughs to tell the story of Bernard Johnson, a quietly unassuming college professor who’s forced into a yearlong corporate funded vacation. During which time he’s supposed to see and do things that will stick with him for the rest of his life- climbing mountains, hiking along jungle plateaus, discovering lost ruins- things meant to make a more rounded individual. Instead, a strange terrorist group who can control his physical body kidnaps him and force him into a secret war between corporate controlled terrorists and a shadowy new age research group who manufacture consciousness-expanding drugs. Along the way, meets a cast of oddball characters- some mad, some sane, and some that don’t even seem human. Johnson also discovers his own capacity for self-truth and the meaning of love and sexuality and…well, it gets sort of complicated from there.
Like Phillip K. Dick, Shipp’s narrative style is a bit obtuse at times, but in essence, through his touch point narrative, he also allows the reader to search for meaning between the concepts.
Will this sit well with all readers?
Of course not. Some will find it too challenging, much like Mark Z. Danielewski’s The House of Leaves, only a hell of a lot shorter. But for those readers who are seeking something different in the current all too predictable genre fictions, Shipp delivers a vision of strangeness and truth, and a character who could be the everyman in all of us who sometimes find life too complicated and overwhelming. It is easy to feel the author’s confusion and cynicism with the real world, but it’s how he helps Johnson find his own sense of peace by tale’s end that displays the author’s maturity and compassion. I hope to see much more from this fresh voice in literature.
But I’d be remiss if I didn’t also offer kudos to Raw Dog Screaming Press for publishing this brave narrative and taking a chance out of the ordinary for their readers’ sake.