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Sip by Brian Allen Carr

Sip (edition 2017)

by Brian Allen Carr (Author)

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584330,606 (3.5)None
"It started with a single child, and quickly spread: you could get high by drinking your own shadow. At night, lights were destroyed so that addicts could sip shadow in the pure light of the moon. Gangs of shadow addicts chased down children on playgrounds, rounded up old ladies from retirement homes. Cities were destroyed and governments fell. If your shadow was consumed by addicts, you were forced to sip shadows yourself, or go mad. Now it is 150 years later, and what's left of the world is divided between the highly regimented life of those inside dome-cities that are protected from natural light, and those forced to the dangerous, hardscrabble life in the wilds outside. In rural Texas, Mira hunts shadow from animals for her bedridden, sleepless mother. Her shadow-addicted friend Murk hobbles across the blasted landscape on his wooden leg, molding himself on the image of Jim Morrison he saw on an ancient Doors record. Bale, a former Domer thrown in to exile, joins with them, and together they search for a possible mythological cure to the shadow sickness--but they must do so, it is said, before the return of Halley's Comet, which is only days away"--… (more)
Authors:Brian Allen Carr (Author)
Info:Soho Press (2017), 305 pages
Collections:2020 reads, Read, Own paper copy, Your library

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Sip by Brian Allen Carr



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Mixed feels about this one. It's a dystopian...Western? It's weird, wild, and unique.

It's 300 pages and I read it in a single sitting in a couple of hours...if it hadn't read fast, I probably wouldn't have stuck it out.

Tonally, it produced a similar feel in me to The Road where afterwards, I felt a little empty. There are several characters, none of whom I really rooted for or against. I thought the world more interesting than the people in it, which is...weird, right?

Not all of them work, but there are some intriguing and brilliant flashes in the story elements that I'd never seen done before - the shadow junkies! the shadowless army! the doc! the dome and those who live in it! the guard train that circles the perimeter!

And/but--I've seen this book described as funny and...let's just say that light and quirky, this is not. It's extremely edgy and relentlessly violent with some very graphic language. ( )
  angiestahl | Jun 30, 2020 |
This review and others posted over at my blog.

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 ( )
  MillieHennessy | Oct 17, 2018 |
[This was also published at my website, the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography.]

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.

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 ( )
  jasonpettus | Sep 12, 2017 |
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