Matt Forney
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Beyond the Bush by Robert Ignatius Dillon

I’m honestly not sure what to make of this book.

Beyond the Bush is the debut novel by Robert Ignatius Dillon, who I know absolutely nothing about. The only reason I read the book is because it’s the first release from Ann Sterzinger’s Hopeless Books that wasn’t written by Sterzinger herself; she sent me a review copy some time ago. To date, this is the only writing of any kind that Dillon has had published under this name.

Which leaves me without any sort of framework to build this review on.

Beyond the Bush is an entertaining book, but I honestly felt like I was missing something when I read it, some cultural white noise that Dillon and his ilk recognize but I instinctively tune out. Having someone like me read the book is like expecting a high school dropout to analyze The Canterbury Tales in the original Middle English: the basic message gets across, but the nuances are lost. All I can say is that you should check the book out to see for yourself.

The one major issue with Beyond the Bush from a technical standpoint is the prologue. My God is it terrible. It sets up the novel’s story—about a secret plot initiated by Dick Cheney and the elder George Bush to create a clone army—but Dillon’s obsession with references to James Bond movies and Blade Runner clashes with his clipped prose. The prologue reads like a William Shatner monologue as transcribed by an autistic savant, who was extra careful to leave in every dramatic pause:

Why did Octopussy, starring Roger Moore, and Never Say Never Again, starring Sean Connery, both hit theaters in 1983?

Some say Sean Connery wanted money.

Some say it was merely because people love spy movies.

I say it goes deeper.

Irvin Kershner’s Never Say Never Again followed John Glen’s Octopussy into movie theaters for a good reason.

The reason?

To save 007.

Fortunately, the book picks up almost immediately with the first chapter. Beyond the Bush is half sci-fi story, half political satire, all written with Dillon’s tongue glued to his cheek. The action begins in the eighties, with George H.W. Bush’s “Brain Trust” trying to perfect their cloning technique. Their test subject? A nameless slob known only as “Fat Guy,” whose utter stupidity is a constant source of aggravation for the book’s protagonists. The book’s recreation of the Voight-Kampff test scene from Blade Runner had me doubled up in laughter:

“OK, Fatty,” said Jack. “Suppose you’re in the desert.”

Fatty said, “I love dessert, Jack! I pile on the bananas, and the—”

“Desert, Fatty,” interjected Jack. “D-E-S-E-R-T. With the SAND.”

“Oh, I got it, Jack! Like an ice cream sandwich!”

Jack glared at Fatty.

“Sure,” frowned Fatty. “Sure… I GUESS.”

Dillon’s abbreviated writing style, a source of annoyance in the prologue, helps to move the rest of the book along; I read it in a day. That said, you really have to pay attention in order to grasp the book’s plot, and skipping over so much as a single line can leave you lost as the story reaches its climax at breakneck speed.

But even after re-reading it, I’m at a loss to describe the book further.

Sterzinger notes that Beyond the Bush “may be a new kind of book,” one that defies classification, at least for the moment. I agree. Aside from the prologue, the book is slickly written and darkly humorous, especially when poor Barack Obama gets looped into Cheney’s evil plot at the end (if this sounds trite, it’s not; Dillon cleverly avoids partisan humor for something much stranger). But even still, I have difficulty trying to analyze the book and probe its themes, assuming there are any.

You’ll just have to read the book yourself and draw your own conclusions.

Beyond the Bush is a worthy read, if only for its uniqueness. I’m interested to see what Dillon puts out in the future.

Click here to buy Beyond the Bush.

Read Next: Brains & Brawn: A 30-Day Challenge by Robert Koch