Book Review: Sip, by Brian Allen Carr
Sip, by Brian Allen Carr
By Brian Allen Carr
Soho Press
Reviewed by Jason Pettus

Of all the kinds of bizarro novels that one can write, Brian Allen Carr’s Sip is an example of my favorite kind, because it has an actual three-act plot that goes from a recognizable beginning to middle to end, unlike so many other bizarro books that are essentially written-out versions of cartoons, just one random outlandish vision strung after another with no narrative thread holding them together. That said, though, I still found myself with a short tolerance for Carr’s manuscript, one of those kinds of books that’s much more interested in being poetic than in telling a truly great story.

The central premise is that one day the human race wakes up to discover that they can now not only “drink shadows,” but that it produces a better high than any other drug yet invented; the narcotic mania swiftly becomes a global panic and then apocalypse, destroying civilized society as out-of-control addicts knock out power grids and enslave entire populations in order to chase the purest high possible, the shadows of humans as given off by the light of the moon. Our story, then, takes place 150 years later, in an America that’s now been transformed into a kind of post-apocalyptic “working wasteland;” as we follow the misadventures of the teenage Mira (who now has a psychic connection to forest animals from all the shadow-bits she’s stolen from them), her addict friend Murk, and a man named Bale who has recently been exiled from the safe but harshly regimented domed cities that dot the landscape, where diffuse lights from all directions produce no shadows at all.

#BrianAllenCarr's #Sip is not a bad bizarro novel at all, although it'll still grate some Click To Tweet

It’s certainly not bad as far as all this stuff goes, with prose that resembles Cormac McCarthy in its rough-edged poetry; but with a storyline that floats this much out in the ether of beautifully strange unbelievability, it’s hard to stay attached to any of the characters or care much about what happens to them, knowing as we do with these kinds of stories that there’s always a random chance of a magic fairy floating in and making everything right again. A book more to be experienced than read in a traditional sense, your enjoyment of Sip will depend directly on how much you can align your mindset with Carr’s when he was writing it, destined to be a wonderfully delicate surprise for some and a head-scratching disappointment for others.

Out of 10: 8.0, or 9.0 for fans of extra-literary bizarro fiction

Read more about Sip | Official site | Amazon | Goodreads | LibraryThing | Wikipedia |

Jason Pettus is the owner of CCLaP, and a former novelist, slam poet and travel writer. During the day he is a front-end software developer within the Chicago tech startup community. Goodreads | LibraryThing | Twitter | Instagram | Letterboxd