Epeolatry Book Review: High Wired On

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Title: High Wired On
Author: David Russell
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Searle Publishing
Release Date: 20th June, 2002

Synopsis: The 95 page novella High Wired On by David Russell, (published Jan. 24, 2019) features Billy, whose world is decaying around him. Everything that could go wrong seems to, and it’s starting to take its toll. When Billy begins to hear voices in the corners of his mind whispering promises of salvation, his crumbling world begins to distort. Whether for better or for worse, that still remains to be seen. 

“His confidence was crumbling fast. Once he could whisk through the crowds which surrounded him, assured that he was skimming over the surface of life, in no danger of being swallowed up by its depths, but now . . .”

The prose is the first thing that stands out in Russell’s work. What begins as a story recounting a man’s early life to his present day (being recounted by some form of researcher, implying this man’s involvement in some important event), quickly transitions into something prophetic, fantastical, and altogether unconventional. 

While there is no doubt Russell masters writing, and the sentences he weaves emit an abstract, unique beauty, it borders on the self-indulgent as the story takes multiple breaks to composite monologues via dialogue or narrative voice. The author postulates on one subject or another, though (to his credit) stays relevant to the plot at hand. However, this dream-like prose is briefly interrupted through grounded and straight-forward text, shattering the illusion and making for a jarring read. Such a change may have been interpreted as reality in the distorted story, but the frequency of shifts in writing style are far and few between, so it feels less significant and intentional. This problem is distinct in the dialogue, where long-winded replies and statements move to surreal territory as characters become less and less believable in the way that they speak. The simplistic and natural dialogue betrays the more theatrical and otherworldly dialogue. 

Despite its shortcomings, the narrative voice—at times—produces elegantly constructed sentences that add to the oppressive force Billy feels, which leads to an extrapolation of his inner turmoil. Billy’s sense of isolation and ostracization bleeds forth due to the more impersonal nature in which it is written. This detachment meant that I, as a reader, couldn’t connect with Billy. It made it harder to empathize with him on his journey, especially with Billy being the central focus. Brief sentences and smaller chapters are used for backstory—who Billy was as a child, what his family and love life were like, and where he worked. With so little time spent on these aspects, he feels distant. Given how introspective and analytical this story wishes to be, even with these lengthy internal monologue paragraphs, Billy comes across as just a name, a vehicle for the plot. 

Taking into account the short time spent on Billy as a character and the short length of the book (not even surpassing 100 pages), it’s hard to root for Billy, get invested, or understand his decisions. When events do occur, it feels as though he’s stumbled upon them. None of his choices have any impact upon the outcome, which leaps from one to another in such a rapid fashion that substance can’t be absorbed or digested. This is especially the case when the story gives the impression of leaving its entirety up to interpretation. Barely anything on the surface level ties it all together.

High Wired On feels less like a story and more like a platform for Russell to pontificate on various subjects and express his inner musings and ideals. It’s a maelstrom of long-winded delusions about a man (broken by society) who questions if his existence is real or purposeful. More metaphor than meaning, High Wired On is recommended for those seeking a challenge. Dive into its depths of pretension, and salvage some form of worthwhile experience that only the reader can define. 

High Wired On can be found on Amazon!

2/5 stars

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