Matt Forney
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Welcome to the Divide… by .S.P. Daley

welcome-to-the-divideWelcome to the Divide… is a first for me: a book that is completely unreviewable.

I can’t say it’s a good book, but I can’t say it’s bad, either. .S.P. Daley’s (that’s not a typo: his pen name has that extra period) debut novel is a dense digression on individuality, collectivism and dystopia, written in squid-ink prose and stretching on for nearly 400 pages. Daley sent me a copy on Aaron Clarey’s advice; Clarey loved it, but going to a guy like him for reading recommendations is like asking a teetotaler about craft brews.

Welcome to the Divide… is the most impenetrable novel I’ve ever read. The closest comparison I can make is to Beyond the Bush, the schizophrenic political satire-cum-80’s-movie-rehash squeezed out by Ann Sterzinger’s label Hopeless Books, but that novel had waaaaaay better pacing. I can’t review Daley’s book because I honestly don’t understand it. I can’t grok the style, I can’t grasp the ideas, and I’m not going to pan a book that was clearly written for people more intelligent than myself.

The only advice I can give is to read the book for yourself.

Welcome to the Divide…’s premise, as much as I can tell, concerns a “drone” on the cusp of self-awareness. The initial books concern some kind of control facility staffed by fellow drones lacking any concept of self-identity. The thrust of Divide’s plot concerns S., the protagonist, evolving from a mere drone into a sapient being independent of the hive mind:

After being continually accosted by Our Sssupervisssor’s failed attempts to punish them, the other drones became increasingly and openly disdainful towards Our Sssupervisssor… Soon they learned that slurred mocking of Our Sssupervisssor was permissible, provided it wasn’t done in the presence of non-security-drones… These acts of retaliation became more and more prevalent…

Daley’s prose style is reminiscent of Thomas Pynchon, less pretentious but just as impenetrable. All the book’s sentences end in Célinean ellipses, and he also has an annoying habit of using “etc” repeatedly. While these sound like idiotic gimmicks, Daley’s tight planning shows that these are deliberate stylistic choices.

Unfortunately, they also make the book difficult to comprehend.

I read Welcome to the Divide… all the way through and even re-read several sections in an attempt to understand what was going on, but the book had me lost. It’s not that Daley is deliberately trying to be obtuse as so many postmodern writers are, but his writing style and the way he presents his ideas left me scratching my head. The book constantly drowns you in an ocean of philosophical digressions and asides, giving you no time to come up for air:

As discussions over the particulars were being conducted, the Commanding-figure suddenly broke in, halting the others’ speech… The Commanding-figure’s voice ordered one of the other figures to proceed to the barrels, and count the number of them remaining… I remained frozen in my place, as a figure dashed over to these barrels to quantify how many were present… When the tarp was ripped away from the barrels, it seemed that I would soon be counted out as well… By the night’s darkness or some miraculous blunder, they remained oblivious of my presence…

I don’t want to pan Welcome to the Divide…, mainly because I think the problem isn’t so much the book itself as it is my interpretation of it. I’m sure that if I went back and re-read the book with a critical eye, I’d come away with a stronger sense of what Daley was trying to accomplish. As it stands, it’s the kind of book that doesn’t appeal to me and that I don’t really want to spend more time trying to figure out.

Despite this, I’m going to recommend you buy Welcome to the Divide… anyway, if only so you can come to your own conclusions. It’s clear that Daley put a lot of work into the book, and his style will definitely appeal to a particular subset of readers. Just because I’m not part of that subset doesn’t mean I’m going to criticize the novel for it. Welcome to the Divide... defies reviewing, so just check the book out for yourself.

Click here to buy Welcome to the Divide…

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  • DeMedici

    Okay, I gotta give you props, Matt… Most reviewers would simply pan the book without comprehending primarily to protect their “intellectual capital” so that their readers will continue to read their posts and fawn at their feet at their obvious intellectual brilliance. It takes a strong, self-assured individual to actually come right out and admit that a work might be beyond their comprehension. Kudos to you! And needless to say I’m going to pick up the book ASAP so I can take a swing at it. (Hell, it can’t be any worse than the United States tax code…)

  • Tim

    I enjoyed it. The beginning is laugh out loud funny in places, and later on the book has some very fresh ideas, similar to those in Vernor Vinge’s books.