Bricked In (Audiobook)
I did not finish this book, for reasons I’ve laid out below. This is a non-spoiler book review, so if you are interested in checking out the book yourself, you can read my thoughts without worry.
Bricked In is a disgusting glimmer of self-recognition.
For many, happiness is found in freedom. After winning the lottery, a former gypsy becomes the queen of a dystopia. Newlyweds Bethany and Neil join this isolated society, which is devoid of common American laws. With no holds barred, experimental science takes place.
Neoba is a brick building with a population of 10,000. Within the walls is chaos and weirdness. Social norms is a foreign concept in Neoba, as freedom is held at the highest regard. This includes freedom of choice, freedom of expression, and freedom of science. The only laws at Neoba are to respect royalty, the leaders of this wild, cult-like society.
The story follows the lives of Neoba’s royalty, a newlywed couple new to the society, and the scientists within Neoba who are free to create without the limitations of morality.
Max Wannow’s take on dystopian fiction is a unique one, because although this dystopia exists, the real, modern world we are familiar with still exists on the outside, too. It’s an interesting idea that Neoba can carry on without pressures from the outside to make their world more humane and just (at least, in what I read, they did not feel any pressures from the outside). After some reflection, I thought about how Neoba is an exaggeration of the question: how far is too far? The events taking place within the brick walls are horrific, shocking, and often both, and yet no one from the outside steps in. Is it the outside’s morbid curiosity that keeps them away, and perhaps allows the rituals of Neoba to go on? The none-of-our-business attitude, which is played off as better than interfering for the greater good (and where is the line between interfering for the greater good and negative interference)? Am I just drawing lines that have no business being connected?
Speaking of horrific; the gory scene at the beginning of the book is one of the reasons I was turned off by the story. I don’t mind descriptions of blood being shed, but the descriptions of that scene veered far into sickeningly descriptive for me. A similar feeling pummeled me in the sex scene that followed. Hardcore descriptions and intense narration by the author, in addition to some new details being thrown in among erotic actions, just made my head spin. In other words, trying to grapple with those new details while descriptions of foreplay and moaning played in my ears made for a hectic listening experience.
Since I listened to the audiobook version, I did think about what a potential read of a physical copy would be like. I’m not sure if my own voice in my head would have made me enjoy the book more. Author Max Wannow did an intense narration, which fits the intensity of the story he’s created. However, in the more calm parts of the beginning, the tone was a bit rigid and tense, which was a bit more distracting than it was purposely unsettling. Additionally, the story may have benefited from a slower introduction. For example, we immediately meet Bethany and Neil, whose exact reason for trading their old life for one in Neoba is mysteriously unclear. The short time we spend with them before our first interaction with Neoba made me believe that perhaps Bethany was not there by choice, and that Neil was very much in charge. Then we are introduced to a number of other characters and the structure of Neoba society, and all of this happened in what felt like a blink of an eye. Basically, the details that were not drawn out were those I wish had been, while I would have enjoyed more subtle descriptions of gore and sex, at least right at the beginning. There were just too many things to grapple with right from the start, and I didn’t feel inclined to seek out whether that disconnect would waver further on in the book.
The audiobook of Bricked In was released on July 25th, 2018. While I was provided with a copy, all thoughts are my own.