This is an unusual book, of no genre and many, weirdly paranormal but rooted in reality, psychological drama and yet often cultural history, part travelogue and possibly part true biography, explorative of positive new age philosophies and yet at times strangely nihilistic.
What would you do if strangers you touched randomly fell down dead? I would go and live in an isolated lighthouse or in a very empty desert.
What would you think of what I assumed as I read was a basically non-fiction script, that follows an Australian hippie from one of the last cohorts of the baby-boomers, as he toured the English speaking world on a exploratory rap for most of his life? If you were of his age, which I am, you'd find that interesting. At least I did. Now what would you think if he added what the sane must hope is a fictional reason for his wandering behaviour, that being that he is an unwitting mass killer? Could that work? I was interested by Shank's private experiences in last thirty years of the 20th Century, and the beginning of this, despite the fact that he seemed to live and do very little that didn't fit period clichés. However at least some people have to live them to create shibboleths, don't they?
The book could have been called 'A Hundred Tragic Deaths on the Way to Zen': not that the author necessarily actually stayed in that particular philosophical cul-de-sac when he arrived. If he had he may never have been agitated enough to write. Actually, for anyone that didn't live those years the book is far too long. The detail is interesting, if one is writing a history of the Australian itinerant tie-dyed period hippie, but drags us a mile away from the goal of understanding what I pray is only highly unproblematic fiction.
I can accept that people can be killed as easily as this first person actor kills them. That is quite plausible, especially if one chooses to believe the writer is penning a fiction as a cunning serial killer living in denial of his crimes. I can even see the deliberately outlined possibility that Shanks is actually a premeditated killer and that this book comes half-way to a confession. Can one confess to multiple murders and yet not take any real responsibility? If fact is pretending to be fiction then that makes the matter of fact mentions of death in this book into real life horror.
One possibility is that Shanks is not a human at all, but a sort of humanoid triffid plant. My guess is that he is then genetically close to aconitum, better known as wolfsbane. When you've read the book, take a break to look up the ways in which this plant kills its victims.
What I actually subscribe to is the likelihood that Shanks just intended to give the 'killer story' plausibility by weaving it around his very real bohemian life. I was drawn along, hoping to find a true answer. Um- there wasn't one for me, though some readers may find one.
The book is well enough written though I fear, in far too long-winded a form for many time-pressed readers. I give the book four stars for writing and invention, but not five, simply because far too many pages tell the reader too little and advance the drama not at all. If ever a book cried out for a content editor, it's this one. But don't take my word for it. Read the book- It as truly fascinating, and for once the skim-reader may actually pick up comprehensive detail.