A debut novel offers a nestled allegory about a soul-awakening journey.
In this tale, a man named Jack Burchell is living in the bleakly regimented world of 2059, a world still reeling from the wars of the 2040s that “changed everything and set the earth on a new trajectory.” Burchell works facelessly for a multinational corporation. One day he defies his supervisors and visits his personal storage space, where he finds an old book that turns out to be his grandfather’s secret memoir, an account of a long walking adventure his grandfather and a friend named Khalid took, forsaking the horror-haunted land of Ennuied. In Ennuied, all life is organized around a plant called “fodder grass” (in a typically philosophical digression, Burchell's grandfather thinks, “I suppose all people have something like fodder grass, those most important things they grew up with and were told will meet their needs”). Ennuied is a dark, repressive, spider-haunted place, and Khalid and Burchell’s grandfather leave it without much compunction, heading into a broader world in which beautiful music wafts through the forests and time seems to lose its value. They encounter a variety of people and places in the course of their journeys, and the sentiment of one of the folks they meet, “we all know that we simply need to follow our heart,” becomes the theme running through their adventures. In clear and energetic prose, Braun poses one thinly veiled allegory after another about the various kinds of places seekers tend to find. The two friends meet many different types of fellow travelers on the road, and they reach a variety of lands and cities, from regimented Officium to solipsistic Heureux, each as stylized and dramatic as Ennueid. All of this—as well as the increasingly enigmatic companionship of Khalid—provokes in Burchell a series of reassessments of his life and preoccupations. Any reader who’s ever gone backpacking without a plan will likely nod at many of the realizations Braun describes in these pages.
A protracted parable about finding your true nature while on the road to strange places.