The weirdest novel of 2017 award probably goes to Brian Allen Carr’s Sip. Sip presents a bizarre blend of fantasy, post apocalyptic America and Cormac McCarthyan bleakness. A really strange book, Sip presents a conundrum to be digest for a long time after reading without ever really coming to definite opinion.
In the future, people drink their own shadows – kneeling, as one might drink a puddle – and it gets them fantastically high. Once a person shadow’s totally disappears, it never returns and addicts to shadow-sipping run around steal other people’s shadows. People without shadows become plagued with chronic insomnia and go crazy, which causes society to collapse. Mira, a young woman who can somehow turn off her shadow, steals shadows from wild animals so that her shadowless mother can sleep. She befriends Murk, a one-legged drifter shadow addict, and Bale, a soldier from a totalitarian city under a dome to prevent sunlight from entering, and attempts to find a cure for her mother’s insomnia. These three encounter chauvinist female militia, a father-son shadow thieving duo, and a machine that makes human shadows using amputated limbs as they attempt to discover how Halley’s Comet can stop the shadow sipping.
Sip exhibits boundless creativity. The dirty world imagined in this novel cycles through post-apocalyptic tropes without exhausting them. Sip manages to build a completely foreign territory in the future of the United States. While characters exist on the vestiges of American pop culture like The Doors and Santa Claus, an impressive culture of scrounging has emerged. And, despite their situation, Sip‘s characters remain almost deadpan in their realism.
Occasionally, however, Sip crosses the line between macabre and distasteful. The bleakness that Sip exudes can sometimes block out the craft of Carr’s prose. What’s more, it stops being shocking to see so many limbs amputated. The surrealism that draws readers in goes stale sometimes during the journey. That disjoint becomes just enough, however, to carry fans of absurdism and horror through the bleakness of Sip.
Sip provokes thought about the capacity for darkness and addiction within everyone, even everyday life. It questions the ethics of human actions more than the run-of-the-mill zombie wasteland, but sometimes with a little too much mess. It contains the poetry and bareness of serious literature flash-fried against a unique scenario.
Three stars out of five. Order now! After you’ve read it, it can be next year’s white elephant gift.
Page count: 296
Favorite quote: “Clumped there in thickets of huizaches – brutally thorned midget trees that sprang from the earth like bouquets of bones – he crooned anguish, gabbled desperate nonsense.”