Publisher: Mirador Publishing (January 27, 2014)
Review by: Lindsey
Imagine: you wake up with a terrible headache. You don’t know what happened, where you are or how you got there. Everything around you is gigantic and your limbs are very heavy and hard to move. To top it off, there’s some sort of cabin that seems to follow you around and every now and then you end up in it….and then you discover you’re a tortoise instead of a guy of six foot two. This may sound like something caused by hallucinogens or reminiscent of Kafka’s Die Verwandlung…Anyway, whatever it is you’re thinking; it happens to Ed Trew, the main character of A Survivor’s Guide to Eternity. And with this basic knowledge, we’re propelled into a world where this bizarre situation is reality and we embark on a journey to find some answers as to what is going on.
Obviously, Pete Lockett doesn’t waste any time and immediately plunges us into all the complexity, weirdness and excitement his plot has to offer. The story takes off with a high speed and maintains this throughout the entire novel, something I extremely enjoyed. Not only does the plot display enormous creativity, it also offers very interesting philosophical and theological concepts. Although it’s clear what Lockett’s opinion is on the matters presented, not once does he force his view upon you, leaving ample room for you to come to your own conclusions, which I find very impressive. I am purposefully being vague about the plot, so you can discover for yourself how Ed came to be a tortoise and be (pleasantly) surprised while the story unfolds itself.
By means of encountering minor characters and unveiling their life stories, we’re able to explore past times, human nature and historic displays of (seemingly) incomprehensible, flawed human behaviour. This ingeniously enables Lockett to make critical reflections on (according to him) largely collective human flaws and shortcomings, without diverging from the main story. This may sound as a display of pessimism and wailing. However, the book is very positive and hopeful about human nature as it offers possible explanations, examples and ways on how people may behave and think instead, as means to overcome these human flaws. This gives these minor characters astounding stories and traits.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the main character. Ed is an average guy. He’s quite nondescript and therefore kind of boring and at times, irksome. So don’t expect to really connect with Ed. The dialogues are often quite dull and lifeless as well. For me it often feels like Lockett is trying too hard to be funny or to get across how unreal everything must be to his characters. Granted, the reality they face is difficult to believe and will seem mental to almost anyone, making it tough to realistically portray the responses of the characters to it. Nonetheless, it often seems unnatural and lifeless to me.
The characters, although some have interesting background stories, remain flat throughout the novel. Something the lifeless dialogues do not improve at all. But in all fairness, the depth of the characters, or lack thereof, is hardly what matters in this novel. It’s its originality, versatility and ample display of creativity. Another example of which is the nifty clarification of what being an animal might be like. This is done by ways of comparing certain animal traits, like feline vision, to various forms of the current IT-era like apps, GPS and Photoshop. Thereby making the novel extremely contemporary and up to date.
However creative many of Lockett’s writing tricks may be, the same does not go for the manner in which he ends his novel. To me, the ending feels extremely abrupt and rushed. Almost like the author suddenly lost interest in continuing writing or had no clue whatsoever how to end it and therefore finishes it quickly, vaguely and abruptly. Earlier I mentioned Kafka’s Die Verwandlung and just like he never presented an explanation, so does Lockett refrain from giving a full explanation. To some, this ending may seem fitting to the theme of the story, since it leaves some of the mystery and wonderings of the story intact and while I do appreciate the liberty to come up with my own conclusions and explanations, the ending is too abrupt and anticlimactic for me to be appreciated, hence making it hard to see it as anything else than a lack of inspiration or lazy writing.
To summarize; I have mixed feelings about this novel. There are undoubtedly several things that I absolutely love; the innovative and diverse plot, the enormous creativity and the brilliant writing tricks to nicely combine all the separate elements the novel possesses. These things are top notch and really show talent. However, the lifeless dialogues, the often boring, amateurish writing style and the lazy ending, really put a damper on it. A Survivor’s Guide to Eternity is absolutely worth reading, but it has too many ‘little’ flaws to be considered the great novel that it definitely could have been. Instead I would deem it a highly enjoyable, creative and fairly complex type of light reading that offers plenty food for thought.