A Semi-Apocalyptic Tale of Hope, November 4, 2007
There is a lot of information hidden–and not so hidden–within the pages of this deceptively thin book; I hardly know where to start. The book is a well-constructed, semi-apocalyptic tale of hope. But that isn’t all. What you probably won’t find in this book is any sort of simple resolution, even though it may seem like it at times.
Bernard Johnson is on a journey to connect–to connect with himself, with others, with anything. What he finds is a way of existence that he never expected, one that takes him down paths he never imagined for himself, and in that he finds a truth that’s been eluding him for so long. The author wraps you into the story, presents philosophical viewpoints, and tries to mold your mind–all without you knowing exactly what is going to happen from one moment to the next. The same takes place for Bernard in his interactions with the various characters he meets. The dream-like writing style hooks the reader from the very first paragraph and never lets go.
While reading the book, I was pleasantly surprised by both its simplicity and its depth. Whether I agreed with the views presented or not, there were times when I would read a few pages and then sit the book aside in order to really think about what was just read. And really, it is partially the presentation, the bluntness of each statement wrapped within a larger story, that contributes to the book’s complexity. On each page there is something for the reader to mentally digest–whether it is a tidbit about the benefits of holistic remedies or questioning the validity of a comfortable reality.
Various comparisons to authors like Philip K. Dick seem wholly accurate. I would also say that comparisons to Kurt Vonnegut are in order as well. Though Shipp displays a signature style that is unlike anything I’ve read before, thoughts of Vonnegut’s SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE and BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS do come to mind.
There’s a lot more that I could probably say about VACATION. But nothing said could really prepare the reader for their own experience of what’s within the pages of the novel. No matter what your philosophy on life, or what type of books you like, you should read VACATION. Put it on your reading list and get it as soon as you can. You may or may not agree with the viewpoints presented but you will most certainly have a lot to think about and talk about afterwards. Who knows–it may even change how you look at the world.