By Brian Allen Carr
Paperback, 302 pages
2017, Soho Press
Mira and Murk live in a world where people can drink their shadows and get high. Shadow sipping grants strange powers, but only temporarily – like any drug, it creates addicts who are always after more. Everyone must protect their own shadow, for once yours is stolen you won’t be able to sleep unless you drink the shadows of others. Mira’s left tending to her shadowless mother – she must “hunt” shadows and bring them home for her restless mother. While some inhabit the wilds like Mira and her mother, eking out a living, others have retreated to the protection of domes. Bale was one such person, until he made a mistake that got him kicked out of the relatively safe dome life. When he meets Mira and Murk, a shadow addict, the three of them will set out to try to find a cure for the shadow sickness so many suffer from.
This is a hard book to blurb – it’s unlike any I’ve ever read and if you want to understand what’s going on in the world Carr created, I suggest you just read it!
I was browsing Barnes & Noble the other day and the gorgeous cover caught my eye. It’s textured and looks like a grim watercolor depicting what I (correctly) assumed was some sort of dystopia-scape. The blurb on the back of the book describes a dystopia with a fantasy flare and a dash of Western. There was no way I could leave it behind.
I’m so glad I didn’t.
I flew through this, mostly in one sitting. The chapters are short; so easy to consume! The book is also divided into several sections, aesthetically separated by pages of darkness. I love books with extravagant design and detailed illustrations, but little touches like that go a long way too! It’s thoughtful and it helps set the mood.
This book was great. It’s odd, it’s unique, the characters are…not quite likable, yet I didn’t dislike them either. They’re very much what I imagine people living in this type of world would turn out to be. Mira and Murk are the same age, though if their ages were ever mentioned, I totally missed it. Despite that, I imagined Mira around 18 or so and Murk at like, a grizzly 35 because of his shadow addiction. Bale was around 20 in my head. “Millie, who cares?” you ask. Well, if I’m correct in stating that the character’s ages aren’t disclosed (please, gourd, let me be right), it gives the reader some leeway. I don’t need a full run-down of a characters age and physical attributes. I like being able to have a small hand in their creation in my head. If you like this sort of freedom, I wanted to make you aware of it.
The dialog and even the descriptions of the world are similarly sparse. I felt there was just enough detail to paint the world Carr created, without forcing me to picture every little thing just the way he wanted. If I want to get super analytical, it’s like the minimal writing mimics the barren wasteland the world has become in his novel. Did that sound convincing? No?
I’m curious to know if Carr will write more novels set in this shadowy world. Readers don’t learn a lot about dome life and I would certainly read something set on the other side of the tracks. Literally, the other side – the domes are surrounded and protected by ever-circling trains. I’ve purposely avoided talking about the plot, by the way. The book is a short 302 pages (yeah, that’s a thing!) and I don’t want to give much away.
I highly suggest Sip if:
+ you want something atmospherically creepy or odd for fall, but not something scary or horrific
+ you’re looking for a western-wasteland-dystopia with a little fantasy spin
+ you like endings that leave you frowning a little