Vacation by Jeremy C. Shipp
A Keith Dugger Review
ONE CAN ONLY PRAY to the Pax-dishing government conspiracy theorists that Jeremy C. Shipp’s inaugural dip in deep end of the novel pool is not his last. And if the prayers do go unanswered, those still in the living world just lost the one thing that might make life worth living. Vacation is a surreal jaunt skittering across the calm surface of social norms (on an ocean that certainly doesn’t exist) hellbent on splashing waves of ever-disturbing rings disrupting the way one thinks: As if you could still think for yourself. And it deserves a fast read. Except that one might miss out on a rather grand experience that begs to be savored like an aged box wine. Read it like your life depended upon it. Then read it again; you’ll be both happy and uncomfortable that you did.
From the cover snippet:
“It’s time for blueblood Bernard Johnson to leave his boring life behind and go on The Vacation, a yearlong corporate-sponsored odyssey. But instead of seeing the world, Bernard is captured by terrorists, becomes a key figure in secret drug wars, and, worse, doesn’t once miss his secure American Dream.”
Yes, that is Vacation all summed up in a neat little literary bouquet garni dunked in a larger world of haggis. It is a valid description, but only like the word “water” can singularly describe the planet Earth. There is a lot going on under the verbal covers that make up the 158 pages of Vacation. And, while 158 pages may seem short, the world Shipp reveals nestled in those pages is a vast society of organized crime set on one of two sides: Either keep everyone from the truth or blast the truth around the world like a revolutionary gunshot. (The truth is something you’ll have to read the book to learn.)
Do yourself a favor. Take a blank sheet of paper and your favorite pen. Draw ten blank lines randomly on that piece of paper like a fill-in-the-blank test from grade school but without any questions. Now fill in those blanks with the most glorious adjectives that one might use to light up sentences meant to describe Vacation. Having read this book or not, no matter how creative you might be in choosing these words, you will have done Shipp and Vacation an injustice. The only way out of that hole is to buy the book and read it in your sleep. And hope the dream machine isn’t broken.